For the first time in more than four years, NASA collects applications for future astronauts, aspiring explorers of the Moon and Mars during this month of March.
The call comes at a time when the agency prepares to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon with the Artemis program. Exploring the Moon during this decade will help prepare humanity for the next big leap: send astronauts to Mars.
NASA hopes to complete the selection of the latest astronaut candidates by mid-2021, to begin training as the next astronaut promotion of the Artemis generation.
The last time the agency recruited astronaut candidates, in late 2015, a record 18,300 applications were received. After more than two years of intensive training, 11 new astronauts selected from that group graduated earlier this year at the first public graduation ceremony that the agency has organized.
With only 48 astronauts currently active in the astronaut corps, more will be needed to serve as a crew aboard spacecraft aimed at multiple destinations and to boost exploration as part of Artemis missions and beyond.
Basic requirements to apply include being a US citizen and having a master’s degree from an accredited institution in a CTIM field, which includes engineering, biological sciences, physical sciences, computer science or mathematics.
Candidates must also have at least two years of professional experience and progressive responsibility, or at least 1,000 flight hours as a pilot-in-command in jet aircraft. Astronaut candidates must pass the NASA long-term space flight physical exam.
In addition to missions to the Space Station, they could also take off on the powerful and new rocket of the NASA Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft, attaching to the Gateway Spaceport in lunar orbit before heading to a new landing system in the Moon surface.
After sending astronauts back to the moon in 2024, NASA plans to send astronauts to the lunar surface once a year on expeditions and set up a sustainable lunar exploration by 2028.
Gaining experience on and around the Moon will prepare NASA to send the first humans to Mars in the mid-2030s, according to an agency statement.