NASA celebrates windfall of astronaut applications to join 21st astronaut class, likely the first to board commercial rockets to space station

HOUSTON, 4 Feb. 2012. NASA officials announced receipt of more than 6,300 applications from individuals desirous of becoming a NASA astronaut. The second highest number of applications ever received by the agency was logged between 15 Nov. 2011 and 27 Jan. 2012. NASA officials will select between nine and 15 people, following a thorough selection process that includes interviews and medical examinations, to become part of the 21st astronaut class.

"This is a great time to join the NASA family," admits NASA Administrator Charles Bolden . "Our newest astronauts could launch aboard the first commercial rockets to the space station the next generation of scientists and engineers who will help us reach higher and create an American economy that is built to last."

Members of the Astronaut Selection Office will first review the applications and identify those meeting the minimum requirements. An expanded team comprised mostly of active astronauts will determine those who are highly qualified and who will be invited to Johnson Space Center for in-person interviews and medical evaluations.

"We will be looking for people who really stand out," explains Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center and chair of the Astronaut Selection Board. "Our team not only will be looking at their academic background and professional accomplishments but also at other elements of their personality and character traits--what types of hobbies they have or unique life experiences. We want and need a mix of individuals and skills for this next phase of human exploration."

NASA expects to announce a final selection of astronaut candidates in the spring of 2013.

The selected astronaut candidates will have two years of initial training in such subjects as space station systems, Russian language, and spacewalking skills training. Those who complete the training will be assigned technical duties within the Astronaut Office at Johnson and, ultimately, missions.                                                                                       

The agency generally receives 2,500 to 3,500 applicants for astronaut vacancy announcements; the highest response occurred in 1978 with 8,000 applicants.

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