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Thousands of Americans Sign Up to Be Astronaut

A record number of Americans have applied to join NASA’s 2017 astronaut class, according to the US space agency. More than 18,300 people applied for the training.

The new numbers broke the previous record of 8,000 set back in 1978, and is almost three times the number of applications received in 2012 when the space agency last put out the call.

Astronaut Terry Virts conducts a spacewalk during an orbital sunrise on Feb. 21, 2015.
Image credit: NASA

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, an astronaut himself said:

“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.”

“A few exceptionally talented men and women will become the astronauts chosen in this group who will once again launch to space from U.S. soil on American-made spacecraft.”

During the 70’s, NASA’s big project was the space shuttle program. This program encouraged many people to try out for the space program. Now with its preparations for a manned mission to Mars fully underway, more and more people are showing interest to become an astronaut.

Applications opened Dec. 14, and closed Thursday. Now, an 18-month process will begin to choose eight to 14 individuals for the opportunity to become candidates. People from all walks of life have applied for this year’s training program, Charles Bolden told reporters.

NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore trains for spacewalks in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Credits: NASA

Selected candidates will undergo two years of initial training on spacecraft systems, spacewalking skills and teamwork, Russian language, and other requisite skills, which starts in 2017.

Those who complete the training will be given technical duties within the Astronaut Office at Johnson before being assigned on any of four different spacecraft: 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.

Candidates also need to log at least 1,000 hours of flying a jet plane or three years of relevant professional experience. Candidates will also need to pass a physical test.

Astronaut training