The old saying “aim for the stars” has always held a lot more direct meaning for those working at the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) but now the dream has been echoed by 6,372 American applicants looking to be accepted into the world-famous astronaut program.
NASA spokesperson Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters at the Johnson Space Center in Houston says the number is the second highest in history. In 1978, a public call had been raised regarding the pending Space Shuttle program which was just getting off the ground, both literally and figuratively resulting in more than 8,000 people applying to be the next Alan Shepard. The first mission took place between April 12 and April 14, 1981 with Commander John Young and Pilot Robert Crippen setting off a new era in space travel aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia following the Apollo moon landings of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
From the most recent applicants, NASA will select between nine and 15 to join the astronaut corps next year, which means an individual’s chances of being selected are about one in 425. During the peak shuttle era, NASA selected new astronauts every two years and would typically receive about 3,500 resumes with as many as 36 people being hired.
“This is a great time to join the NASA family,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says. “Our newest astronauts could launch aboard the first commercial rockets to the space station the next generation of scientists and engineers who will help us reach higher and create an American economy that is built to last.”
The Astronaut Selection Office staff will review the applications to identify those meeting the minimum requirements. A secondary review of the applications will then determine which ones are highly qualified. Those individuals will be invited to Johnson Space Center for in-person interviews and medical evaluations.
“We will be looking for people who really stand out,” declares Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and chair of the Astronaut Selection Board. “Our team not only will be looking at their academic background and professional accomplishments but also at other elements of their personality and character traits -- what types of hobbies they have or unique life experiences. We want and need a mix of individuals and skills for this next phase of human exploration.”
NASA expects to announce a final selection of astronaut candidates in the spring of 2013.
Another major project now underway which will require additional personnel moving forward is what’s known as the Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project, which aims to provide greener flying machines. It’s expected the ambitious project will take another 12 to 13 years to complete.
Joining the experts from NASA on the EPA Project will be aviation giants Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, all from California. The consortium has already spent more than a year studying innovative ideas in order to develop new technologies that would allow future aircraft to burn up to 50 percent less fuel than aircraft that entered service in 1998, which is the baseline year for the study comparison. Reducing fuel consumption, harmful emissions and noise are three of the primary goals on the agenda.