Houston – NASA has received a record number of applications for its 2017 astronaut program. More than 18,300 people have signed out for NASA’s open astronaut positions from mid-December 2015 until February 18th. That is almost three times more the number that applied in 2012 and far more than twice the previous record of 8,000 applicants in 1978.
Apparently this rise in applications does not come as a surprise for NASA. It seems that different aspects have helped the company reach the interest of many Americans. For instance, NASA has become more popular thanks to the outstanding job the have been doing with its social media.
Hollywood may have contributed a little too. Science Fictions movies involving astronauts like Gravity, Interstellar, and The Martian may have helped surged the common American interest in space.
But definitely, the major factor in so many applications is that it has been 4 years since the agency last accepted astronauts.
“It’s not at all surprising to me that so many Americans from diverse backgrounds want to personally contribute to blazing the trail on our journey to Mars,” NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said.
A demanding selection process for NASA
Out of the 18,300 people who applied, only eight to 14 individuals will be selected by mid-2017. NASA itself has said the odds of getting selected are between 0.004 to 0.008%. To be among the few chosen ones, applicants must go through a rigorous selection process.
First, NASA’s selection board will review and interview all the applicants at the Johnson Space center in Houston. Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at Johnson said they have a lot of work ahead of them having to cut out these many applications, but that it is heartening to know so many people recognize what a great opportunity this is to be part of NASA’s exciting mission.
He added he was looking forward to meeting the men and women talented enough to rise to the top of what is always a pool of incredible applicants.
After reporting at Johnson, NASA will announce the names of the 8 to 14 men and women selected to be astronauts. Then, the candidates will go through about two years of initial training on spacecraft systems, spacewalking skills and teamwork, Russian language and other necessary skills.
After completing the training, the remaining candidates will be given technical duties within the Astronaut Office at Johnson.
Finally, those who complete the training will be assigned to one of four different spacecraft, which are the International Space Station, NASA’s Orion spacecraft for deep space exploration, or one of two American-made commercial crew spacecraft currently in development: Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner or the SpaceX Crew Dragon.