We will select between eight and 14 new astronaut candidates from among a record-breaking applicant class of more than 18,300, almost three times the number of applications the agency received in 2012 for the recent astronaut class, and far surpassing the previous record of 8,000 in 1978.
The candidates will be announced at an event at our Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas at 2 p.m. EDT on June 7. You can find more information on how to watch the announcement HERE.
1. What are the qualifications for becoming an astronaut?
Applicants must meet the following minimum requirements before submitting an application.
Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics.
Degree must be followed by at least 3 years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft
There have been 22 classes of astronauts selected from the original “Mercury Seven” in 1959 to the most recent 2017 class. Other notable classes include:
The fourth class in 1965 known as “The Scientists: because academic experience was favored over pilot skills.
The eighth class in 1978 was a huge step forward for diversity, featuring the first female, African American and Asian American selections.
The 16th class in 1996 was the largest class yet with 44 members – 35 U.S. astronauts and 9 international astronauts. They were selected for the frequent Space Shuttle flights and the anticipated need for International Space Station crewmembers.
The 21st class in 2013 was the first class to have 50/50 gender split with 4 female members and 4 male members.
These astronauts will be part of expanded crews aboard the space station that will significantly increase the crew time available to conduct the important research and technology demonstrations that are advancing our knowledge for missions farther into space than humans have gone before, while also returning benefits to Earth. They will also be candidates for missions beyond the moon and into deep space aboard our Orion spacecraft on flights that help pave the way for missions to Mars.
5. What will their roles be?
After completing two years of general training, these astronaut candidates will be considered full astronauts, eligible to be assigned spaceflight missions. While they wait for their turn, they will be given duties within the Astronaut Office at Johnson Space Center. Technical duties can range from supporting current missions in roles such as CAPCOM in Mission Control, to advising on the development of future spacecraft.
6. What will their training look like?
The first two years of astronaut candidate training will focus on the basic skills astronauts need. They’ll practice for spacewalks in Johnson’s 60-foot deep swimming pool, the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, which requires SCUBA certification. They’ll also simulate bringing visiting spacecraft in for a berthing to the space station using its robotic arm, Canadarm2, master the ins and outs of space station system and learn Russian.
And, whether they have previous experience piloting an aircraft of not, they’ll learn to fly our fleet of T-38s. In addition, they’ll perfect their expeditionary skills, such as leadership and fellowship, through activities like survival training and geology treks.
7. What kinds of partners will they work with?
They will join a team that supports missions going on at many different NASA centers across the country, but they’ll also interact with commercial partners developing spaceflight hardware. In addition, they will work with our international partners around the globe: ESA (the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.
8. How does the selection process work?
All 18,353 of the applications submitted were reviewed by human resources experts to determine if they met the basic qualifications. Those that did were then each reviewed by a panel of about 50 people, made up primarily of current astronauts. Called the Astronaut Rating Panel, that group narrowed to applicants down to a few hundred of what they considered the most highly qualified individuals, whose references were then checked.
From that point, a smaller group called the Astronaut Selection Board brought in the top 120 applicants for an intense round of interviews and some initial medical screening tests. That group is further culled to the top 50 applicants afterward, who are brought back for a second round of interviews and additional screening. The final candidates are selected from that group.
9. How do they get notified?
Each applicant selected to become an astronaut receives a phone call from the head of the Flight Operations Directorate at our Johnson Space Center and the chief of the astronaut office. They’re asked to share the good news with only their immediate family until their selection has been officially announced.
10. How does the on boarding process work?
Astronaut candidates will report for duty at Johnson Space Center in August 2017, newly fitted flight suits in tow, and be sworn into civil service. Between their selection and their report for duty, they will make arrangements to leave their current positions and relocate with their family to Houston, Texas.
Upon reporting to duty at our Johnson Space Center in Houston, the new astronaut candidates will complete two years of training before they are eligible to be assigned to a mission.
Here are the five training criteria they must check off to graduate from astronaut candidate to astronaut:
1. T-38 Jets
Astronauts have been training in T-38 jets for more than 35 years because the sleek, white jets require crew members to think quickly in dynamic situations and to make decisions that have real consequences. This type of mental experience is critical to preparing for the rigors of spaceflight. To check off this training criteria, astronaut candidates must be able to safely operate in the T-38 as either a pilot or back seater.
2. International Space Station Systems
We are currently flying astronauts to the International Space Station every few months. Astronauts aboard the space station are conducting experiments benefitting humanity on Earth and teaching us how to live longer in space. Astronaut candidates learn to operate and maintain the complex systems aboard the space station as part of their basic training.
Spacewalks are the hardest thing, physically and mentally, that astronauts do. Astronaut candidates must demonstrate the skills to complete complex spacewalks in our Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (giant pool used to simulate weightlessness). In order to do so, they will train on the life support systems within the spacesuit, how to handle emergency situations that can arise and how to work effectively as a team to repair the many critical systems aboard the International Space Station to keep it functioning as our science laboratory in space.
Astronaut candidates learn the coordinate systems, terminology and how to operate the space station’s robotic arm. They train in Canada for a two week session where they develop more complex robotics skills including capturing visiting cargo vehicles with the arm. The arm, built by the Canadian Space Agency, is capable of handling large cargo and hardware, and helped build the entire space station. It has latches on either end, allowing it to be moved by both flight controllers on the ground and astronauts in space to various parts of the station.
5. Russian Language
The official languages of the International Space Station are English and Russian, and all crewmembers – regardless of what country they come from – are required to know both. NASA astronauts train with their Russian crew mates and launch on the Russian Soyuz vehicle, so it makes sense that they should be able to speak Russian. Astronaut candidates start learning the language at the beginning of their training. They train on this skill every week, as their schedule allows, to keep in practice.
HEY HOWDY HEY! A little Plundertale concept. Some of PT’s crew from back in the day. Speaking of…
I finally thought of a name for PT!
🎺 ba ba da daaaaa~! 🎺
🎉 QUANG NGUYEN 🎉
That’s his name, don’t wear it out! (but isn’t it already worn out? That name is super common..) TSS. Don’t worry, He’ll always still respond to PT, but now you know some personal info about him! Yeay!