Now hiring: astronauts. Must be willing to travel.
NASA is bolstering its current active corps of 47 astronauts by opening job applications for the next class. Successful candidates will potentially go to the International Space Station, or ride on any of the spacecraft currently under development: Boeing Starliner, SpaceX crew Dragon, or even Orion.
What does it take to be an American astronaut? To apply, you must be a U.S. citizen with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological sciences, physical sciences, or mathematics. Applicants must have a minimum of three years related professional experience (which can include advanced degrees), or at least 1,000 pilot-in-command hours in jet aircraft (required for pilots).
NASA does not require their astronauts have military experience. Military candidates remain on active duty status when assigned to Johnson Space Center.
Candidates who make it through the initial screening must be able to pass NASA’s long-duration spaceflight physical before being accepted to the program. Among other things that means you need to good distance visual acuity (20/200 for mission specialists and 20/100 for pilots) that is correctable to 20/20 and blood pressure of 140/90. Astronauts can’t be too short (148 cm for mission specialists, 157 cm for pilots) or too tall (193 cm for mission specialists, 190 cm for pilots). There is no age limit: past candidates have been between 26 and 46 years old. Once through the training program, the youngest astronaut to fly in space was Sally Ride at age 32, and the oldest so far was John Glenn at age 77.
Astronauts follow the general Federal Government’s General Schedule pay scale based on academic achievements and experience, placed at GS-12 through GS-13. At current rates, that’s between $65,140 and $100,701 per year.
Meet all the requirements and willing to brave soul-crushing launches followed by bone-jarring landings, the indignity of drinking your own recycled pee, and dare the many threats to human health? Down with training underwater, in caves, and anywhere else they send you in exchange for the chance to get off-planet? Excited to share your experiences?
Applications open December 14 and are due by mid-February. They usually receive about 4,000 applications for 20 openings. Successful candidates will be announced in mid-2017, and if any of them are you, you’d better come back for exclusive interviews with your ground-bound friends.
Top image: Astronaut Andrew Feustel reentering the International Space Station after an 8-hour, 7-minute spacewalk on May 22, 2011. Credit: NASA