Astronauts wanted: NASA looks for more space explorers

Do you like to travel? Enjoy a spectacular view? Enjoy traveling at high speeds? Moving in zero gravity? Word is NASA hiring astronauts so you may want to ditch the cube walls and get ready for a career in orbit.

NASA officials say they are anticipating more human spaceflight missions, such as a journey to , and have announced the agency will soon start accepting applications for the next class of astronaut candidates. According to NASA there are more in development in the United States today than at any previous time in history, so if you want to ride on one of those get an application ready for consideration at http://www.usajobs.gov. The agency will accept applications from Dec. 14 through mid-February 2016 and NASA officials say they expect to announce candidates selected in mid-2017.

To date, NASA has selected more than 300 astronauts to fly on its missions to space, according to the agency. There are 47 astronauts in the active astronaut corps, and more will be needed to crew future missions to the and destinations in deep space. If selected the most likely to take you off the Earth will be part of one of these four programs: the , ’s CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon commercial crew spacecraft currently in development, and NASA’s Orion deep-space exploration vehicle.

According to NASA release you don’t have to be a or engineer to qualify, they will also take scientists and medical doctors, saying the agency hopes to cull future explorers from a “diverse pool of U.S. citizens with a wide variety of backgrounds.”

“This next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realize the goal of putting boot prints on the red planet,” says NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Those selected for this service will fly on U.S. made spacecraft from American soil, advance critical science and research aboard the International Space Station, and help push the boundaries of technology in the proving ground of deep space.”

Sounds like fun.. so I thought what about taking seasoned trade journalist with a passion for golf …. to follow in the footsteps of Alan Shepard and hit the first drive on Mars…. just dreaming. Then I read this paragraph:

“Astronaut candidates must have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in , biological science, physical science, or . An advanced degree is desirable. Candidates also must have at least three years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Astronaut candidates must pass the NASA long-duration spaceflight physical.”

Oh well, I guess a Masters in Journalism and a 11-handicap ain’t what they used to be… Something tells me being over 45 wouldn’t help either. By the time a human spacecraft lands on Mars those who are 40 years old today will be near retirement age and more likely to be on government medical assistance program rather than a government spacecraft. Not everybody can be John Glenn.

So when NASA does choose the next crew of astronauts — a group most likely born after 1985 — I hope they promote them the way they promoted Senator Glenn and his fellow Mercury 7 astronauts more than 50 years ago. Nothing garners public interest in the U.S. space program more than human explorers. Kids don’t dream of being drones when they grow up. They need human heroes.

For more information on an astronaut career and application requirements, visit http://www.nasa.gov/astronauts.