A manned mission to Mars won’t leave until at least the 2030s. But this week, NASA began its search for the next generation of astronauts that will help make a manned Mars mission a reality.
“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,” said 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.”
This group of astronauts will lead a huge transition in space travel. Soon, NASA’s reliance on Russia to get U.S. astronauts will be over. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will shuttle astronauts between the International Space Station and Earth. Today, astronauts continue work on preparing docking ports for these new spacecraft.
The next generation of astronauts will also reclaim a part of space lost since 1972. Deep space. Since the end of the Apollo missions, U.S. astronauts have never travelled out of low-Earth orbit.
Becoming an astronaut
It won’t be easy. Becoming an astronaut is one of the most coveted jobs in the world. There are just 47 active astronauts right now.
While it is ultra-competitive, the pre-requisites for applying to be an astronaut candidate aren’t as insurmountable as you might think.
A bachelor’s degree is a must. An advanced degree is even better according to NASA. And you’ll want to make sure you study engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics. You’ll also need at least three years of related professional experience.
For pilots, at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft is required.
You don’t need perfect vision. But, you will need it corrected to 20/20 in each eye. Surgical procedures (PRK and LASIK) are now allowed for astronauts. At least 1 year will need to pass with no permanent issues, though.
Age shouldn’t be a factor. There isn’t a set age requirement to be selected. In the past, NASA has selected candidates between ages 26 and 46.
Check your height. If you look more at home on the basketball court, you might be pushing the upper limits of NASA’s height requirements. Height requirements are between 62 and 75 inches. Back when the Russian space station MIR was still operational, height was an issue for one astronaut. In 1995, the 6-foot-2 NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski was pulled from training because he didn’t meet Russia’s height requirement for the cramped Soyuz capsule.