Technology & Science

Next stop, Mars? NASA hiring astronauts for new missions

Looking for an out-of-this-world job? NASA's hiring its next slate of astronauts to help them resume their space launches and prepare for the space agency's Mars mission. Canadians can apply — but only if they satisfy one vital condition.

Astronauts will help with the agency's goal of putting 'boot prints on the Red Planet'

NASA announced it is looking for a new slate of astronauts and will start taking applications next month. They say successful candidates could end up in space, like astronaut Robert L. Curbeam, pictured here during a spacewalk in 2001. (NASA/Science Channel via AP)

Looking for an out-of-this-world job? NASA's hiring their next crop of astronauts and will be accepting applications as of next month.

The American space organization announced the job openings last week, saying they will need new astronauts in order to resume their space launches and prepare for NASA's Mars mission.

Nicole Cloutier, a spokeswoman with NASA, says the response so far has been "amazing," generating a flood of online attention.

"Everyone has expressed a lot of excitement about the opportunity to join NASA as an astronaut," she told CBC News in a written statement.

"For the last selection, we had more than 6,000 applicants. Historically, on average, NASA has had around 2,000 applicants for each application opportunity." She did not say how many she thinks will apply this time around.

While applications will be accepted from Dec. 14 to mid-February of next year, the new astronauts won't actually be named until mid-2017. NASA last put out a call for astronauts in 2011.

Extensive list of requirements

The agency is hoping for a wide pool of applicants — they have been actively recruiting on social media and listing the job publicly on their website, along with all of the required qualifications and stages of the rigorous application process.

To even be considered for the job, applicants need a bachelor's degree in either engineering, biological sciences, physical sciences or math, along with at least three years of related professional experience or 1,000 hours of experience piloting a jet.

American astronaut Scott Kelly sits inside a Soyuz simulator at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (GCTC) in Star City, Russia. Applicants must meet many requirements and undergo extensive training to even be considered an astronaut candidate. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)

On top of that, applicants must be able to pass NASA's space flight physical — which includes vision, blood pressure and height restrictions. If you're too small (under 157 centimetres) or too tall (more than 190 centimetres), you won't qualify.

And those are just the minimum requirements. Plenty of training, interviews and background checks will take place before you can be considered an astronaut candidate, let alone a full astronaut who would be ready to be sent to space.

Cloutier says Canadians are not allowed to apply for the job unless they hold dual citizenship with the U.S. She encouraged interested Canadians to reach out to the Canadian Space Agency, which had its last recruitment drive back in 2008.

The Mars generation

NASA says the successful astronauts might end up on one of four U.S. space vessels: the International Space Station, two commercial crew spacecraft which are under development, or the Orion deep-space exploration vehicle.

The agency has been testing the Orion spacecraft, which is designed to carry astronauts to an asteroid and eventually to Mars, using unmanned flights.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden has high hopes for the new candidates.

"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," he said in a statement.

"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."

NASA currently has 47 astronauts in the active corps.


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