Here's How NASA Selected Its 12 New Astronauts


On June 7, NASA announced the 12 outstanding selections for future space missions. Here is what you need to know about how NASA made their selection.

12 New Astronauts

Together with Vice President Mike Pence, NASA announced the astronaut class of 2017 comprising the 12 outstanding candidates out of their 18,300 applicants.

The 12 Astronaut candidates will report for duty at the Johnson Space Center in August, after which they could be assigned in any of NASA's many missions, which could possibly include performing research on the International Space Station, launching aboard commercially made space crafts, or perhaps going on manned deep space missions aboard NASA's Orion space craft.

"We are going to keep them busy," said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. "These candidates are an important addition to the NASA family and the nation's human spaceflight team."

The team of seven men and five women is the largest class of astronauts since the year 2000.

Astronaut Candidate Program

Apart from having the largest astronaut class since the year 2000, the number of applications this year broke 1978's record of 8,000 applications and it is three times larger than the number of 2012 applicants. So how exactly does NASA go about choosing the most outstanding applicants out of thousands?

First of all, they must meet the minimum requirements for application which includes a Bachelor's Degree from any accredited institution in either mathematics, computer science, physical science, engineering, or biological science. That must be followed by three years of relevant experience or a minimum of 1,000-hours of pilot-in-command time in a jet aircraft. Candidates are also required to pass NASA's Astronaut physical.

Though there is no specific age limit for applying for the Astronaut Candidate Program, previously selected candidates' ages have ranged between 26 and 46, with an average age of 34.

U.S. citizenship is also required for candidacy, and dual-citizenships are also accepted. However, NASA does have international astronauts from countries with which it has international agreements with. This includes Japan, Brazil, Canada, Russia, and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Aspiring astronauts who have had previous refractory surgical procedures to improve eyesight are also now allowed, as long as a year has already passed since the procedure, and that no adverse after-effects have been observed.

Though NASA does not specify which schools would be best to attend in order to qualify for the program, they do advise making sure that the institution you are planning to attend is one that is accredited.

Following the basic screening, applicants will also undergo a week-long set of interviews, medical examinations, and an orientation. A complete background check will also be performed on selected candidates.

Apart from complying with the basic requirements, NASA chooses the candidates whose qualifications in different backgrounds could prove useful to current work which, as of the moment, lies on work in the International Space Station, deep-space exploration, and testing commercial capabilities for space transportation to the space station.

Among this year's chosen candidates is a submarine warfare officer with a Master's Degree in nuclear engineering, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow with current research on microorganisms in subsurface environments, and a Major in the U.S. Army with a medical doctorate and 600 hours of combat and imminent danger time.

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