This year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration reported a record number of space explorer hopefuls as thousands of astronaut wannabes flock to NASA 2017 program.
The space agency said that it has received applications from 18,300 Americans, which is nearly thrice as many compared to the agency’s last effort to hire. Anyone could apply for one of the up to 14 open positions from Dec. 14 through Feb. 18.
NASA said that the recent number of applicants broke its record from 1978, when 8,000 Americans sought a job as a space explorer. Charles Bolden of the space agency, however, said that the space agency had expected such a record number for this round.
He explained that thousands of Americans are now actively seeking to be part of the historic mission of landing humans on Mars. He noted that applicants come from different backgrounds and social positions. He also said that people flocked to NASA site because it is four years since the agency last opened astronaut positions to the public.
Nevertheless, experts believe that the record number is due to other factors such as NASA’s presence on social media and sustained campaigns to get people interested in the Journey to Mars project.
For instance, International Space Station astronaut Scott Kelly, who is now the American with the longest stay in space, i.e. 382 days, has his own Twitter account where he posts insights and stunning space photos taken from the orbital laboratory almost on a daily basis.
Furthermore, movies such as The Martian and Gravity have ignited public’s interest in space exploration in recent years. But of the thousands of applicants only eight to 14 will be hired by NASA.
The agency announced that a panel of experts would have a look at all application and select the most promising candidates to be interviewed in the following 18 months. The candidates picked to become astronauts, however, will need to undergo a two-year training session before venturing into space.
After the training, they will take part in NASA’s various space programs including the Journey to Mars mission, get on board the International Space Station, and SpaceX’s Crew capsule Dragon.
While all positions are fulltime and permanent, the annual pay varies from $66,026 to $144,566. Only U.S. citizens can apply. Plus, there are some minimum requirements astronaut candidates need to meet including a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, or in engineering, biological, computer, or physical sciences.
Candidates also need to log at least 1,000 hours of flying a jet plane or three years of relevant professional experience. Astronaut wannabees will also need to pass a physical test.
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