NASA astronaut recruitment starts for future Mars mission

5 Nov 2015

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, squeezes a water bubble out of her beverage container, showing her image refracted, in the Unity node of the ISS. Image via NASA

Listen up astronauts, cosmonauts and anyone with their head in the clouds: NASA will soon be accepting applications for astronauts, recruiting over the next two years those who could be the first humans to land on Mars.

NASA astronaut recruitment is notorious for having one of the toughest job application processes of any career, which is probably a good thing considering that you need to be a top scientist capable of performing tasks outside the earth-bound realms of this planet.

According to the space agency’s announcement, applications will be accepted from 14 December to mid-February, with the successful candidates expected to be announced in mid-2017.

While many (and this journalist in particular) might be a bit miffed that it is only open to American citizens – NASA being an American space agency – those who are successful will get the chance to fly on a number of different space missions.

NASA says that recruitment will cover one or more of its four different vessels, including the International Space Station (ISS), two commercial crew spacecraft currently in development by SpaceX and Boeing, and, most excitingly, NASA’s in-development Orion deep-space exploration vehicle.

The commercial entry of Boeing’s CST-100 craft and SpaceX’s Dragon will allow for an additional seventh crew member to be launched, which NASA says will effectively double the amount of time astronauts will be able to devote to research in space.

Given that these new astronauts won’t begin their new job until 2017 at the earliest, it’s likely that they would be some of the prime candidates for the Mars mission planned by NASA for the mid-2020s.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist

While the early classes of astronauts were required to be pilots in the US Air Force – and, at one point, could only be men – today’s astronauts can come from a number of different STEM fields, but pilots and engineers, as well as scientists and medical doctors, are in high demand.

“This next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realise the goal of putting boot prints on the Red Planet,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Those selected for this service will fly on US-made spacecraft from American soil, advance critical science and research aboard the ISS, and help push the boundaries of technology in the proving ground of deep space.”

Currently, there are 47 astronauts in the active astronaut corps, and more will be needed to crew future missions to the space station and destinations in deep space.

If you want to apply to be a future Martian, but feel like you’ll never meet the standard, fear not, as NASA has actually released a Tumblr post breaking down five myths commonly associated with astronauts.

An example: an astronaut does not need to have perfect vision, have a PhD or be a particular age, however, you do have to have at least a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field, three years of experience in that field and be able to pass NASA’s tough physical tests.

Main image via NASA

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic