Want to Be an Astronaut? NASA Could Be Looking for You

    08 March 2020

    If you have always wanted to become an astronaut, now could be your chance. For the first time in more than four years, the U.S. space agency NASA is seeking candidates to be future astronauts.

    The search comes after NASA announced plans to send the first woman and the next man to the moon as part of its Artemis program. Artemis aims to return humans to the moon by 2024.

    NASA's next goal is to establish a long-term base on the moon by 2028. From there, NASA says it will be able to launch regular space operations, including missions to Mars.

    In this November 7, 2018, photo, 2017 astronaut candidate Jonny Kim prepares for underwater spacewalk training at NASA Johnson Space Center's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston. Photo Credit: (NASA/Robert Markowitz)
    In this November 7, 2018, photo, 2017 astronaut candidate Jonny Kim prepares for underwater spacewalk training at NASA Johnson Space Center's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston. Photo Credit: (NASA/Robert Markowitz)

    NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said these plans present a growing need to choose and train future space explorers.

    "America is closer than any other time in history since the Apollo program to returning astronauts to the Moon," Bridenstine said. "We will send the first woman and next man to the lunar South Pole by 2024, and we need more astronauts to follow suit on the moon, and then Mars," he said.

    Bridenstine added: "If you have always dreamed of being an astronaut, apply now."

    NASA says it expects to choose the final candidates in the middle of 2021. They will then immediately begin training to become Artemis Generation astronauts.

    NASA says it currently has 48 active astronauts. The last time it sought new candidates was in late 2015. At that time, a record-breaking 18,300 people applied. Eleven of them were chosen to become NASA astronauts. After going through an intensive training program, the astronauts officially graduated in January.

    So what exactly is NASA looking for in its crew of new astronauts? Two general requirements are that applicants must be U.S. citizens and hold a master's degree in a field related to science, technology, engineering or mathematics, or STEM.

    This master's requirement can also be met with the completion of at least two years of a STEM PhD program, or by finishing a test pilot school program. A medical degree will also be accepted.

    In addition, candidates must also have at least two years of professional experience in their field. Or, in the case of pilots, candidates need at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command flying time.

    Of course, all applicants will have to complete a NASA physical examination to test their fitness for long-term spaceflight. The positions are based in Houston, Texas, headquarters of the Johnson Space Center. However, applicants must also be willing to live and work at 400 kilometers above Earth during possible stays at the International Space Station.

    And, for the first time, all candidates will also need to take an internet-based test.

    The pay for a beginning astronaut is officially listed at between $105,000 and $161,000 a year.

    In a NASA video, some current astronauts explain what they think it takes to succeed at the job.

    Warren Hoburg identifies three important areas.

    "The three things that it takes to be an astronaut are technical skill, operational skills, and then just being fun and easy to be around."

    Matthew Dominick noted the necessity of being able to fix things that break down.

    "If you were to boil it down into something simple, I would say we're all mechanics. It's just really, really hard to get to the work site."

    And Frank Rubio gives candidates a highly practical suggestion.

    "It would probably not be great if you were scared of tight spaces."

    The astronaut application process will continue through March 31.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from NASA and Agence France-Presse. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    regular adj. happening repeatedly over a period of time

    mission n. a task or job that someone is given to do

    applyv. ask officially for something, usually in writing

    follow suit phr v. to do the same thing as someone else has done

    graduatev. to complete an education successfully at a college or university

    boil it down phr v. to reduce or summarize

    mechanic n. person whose job it is to repair machines

    practical adj. relating to real situations or actions and not to thoughts or ideas