3 Requirements You Need To Meet To Apply To Be NASA's Next Astronaut

Looking for a career change? NASA is recruiting candidates to join its next class of astronauts. The few who make it through the recruitment process will have big adventures ahead of them: The new astronaut candidates will have opportunities to fly on two new American-made commercial spacecraft, as well as the International Space Station (ISS) and Orion, NASA's new deep-space exploration vehicle. Perhaps most exciting is that these astronauts will play key roles in NASA’s journey to Mars. In its job listing — open now through February 18 — the agency announced, “[F]uture Astronaut Candidates will have the opportunity to explore farther in space than humans have ever been.”

According to a Reddit AMA with a NASA astronaut and selection manager, opportunities to apply to be a NASA astronaut only roll around about every four years, and the competition is fierce. In the last recruitment period, held in 2013, more than 6,100 applied, and only eight were selected. Those who get in can expect to make between $66,026 and $144,566 and have to be OK with “extensive travel,” both to foreign countries for training and to space. SPACE! (Specifically for missions aboard the ISS that can last from three to six months, but this whole thing is making my sci-fi nerd brain so excited that all I can really think is “YAS SPACE!”)

NASA on YouTube

In a press release, NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charles Bolden highlighted the importance of the new class of astronaut candidates to the next major step in space exploration. He said,

NASA is on an ambitious journey to Mars and we’re looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to help get us there. Today, we opened the application process for our next class of astronauts, extraordinary Americans who will take the next giant leap in exploration. This group will launch to space from U.S. soil on American-made spacecraft and blaze the trail on our journey to the Red Planet.

So what does it take to become an astronaut? The requirements are actually more open than you might think. NASA says that it’s looking for “a diverse pool of U.S. citizens with a wide variety of backgrounds.” Candidates are not required to have military or flying experience, and advanced degrees, while encouraged, are not mandatory.

Here’s what you need to have:

  1. A bachelor’s degree in engineering, math, biological science, computer science, or physical science. Fields that DON’T qualify include degrees in technology, aviation, psychology (with some exceptions), nursing, the social sciences, or exercise physiology.
  2. A minimum of “related, progressively responsible, professional experience” or a thousand hours of “pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft.” If you have an advanced degree, you can use it in place of some of this experience; a master’s counts as one year of experience, and a PhD counts as three. Teaching experience counts, too.
  3. U.S. citizenship.

Candidates must also be able to pass a NASA physical, and their eyesight must be correctable to 20/20 in each eye (Corrective surgeries are allowed, but glasses are OK, too.) Because candidates will need to work aboard spacecraft and do spacewalks, they have to meet certain physical specifications, too, which, according to Mashable, include being between 62 and 75 inches tall.

For full details, check out the job post on USA Jobs. NASA will be accepting applications until February 18 and will announce who has been accepted in the new class of astronaut candidates in mid-2017. If you have questions about the application process, you may find answers in the Reddit AMA that NASA held yesterday.

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