Nasa opens online recruitment for next wave of astronauts
Want to work in sunny Houston, Texas; earn upwards of $142,000 (£90,000) a year; and take the odd trip into outer space? Nasa is now seeking candidates for astronaut positions for flights to the International Space Station, trips to asteroids and journeys into deep space.
Sadly, you need to be a US citizen, and you’ll also need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, science or math and three years of professional experience. Plus, you’ll need 20/20 vision, be in tip-top medical shape, and be anywhere between 62 and 75 inches tall — to fit inside a Russian Soyuz rocket, that is.
Your odds are quite low, too. Since picking its first seven astronauts from the US military in 1959, only 330 astronauts have been picked for the intensive Astronaut Candidate training program from the thousands of applications received.
What’s in the job description of a 21st century astronaut? Successful applicants will generally work aboard the ISS in three to six month-long missions, and help Nasa’s efforts to partner up with commercial companies like SpaceX to ensure future transportation to the space station.
They’ll also help build and, eventually, fly the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), which is designed for human deep space exploration — potentially to Mars. An unmanned orbital test flight has been penciled in for an early 2014 launch.
Nasa is also in the process of picking a near-Earth asteroid to explore, with plans to set foot on a chunk of space rock in 2025. The administration plans to send a robotic precursor mission to the asteroid approximately five years before humans arrive.
Nasa’s more ambitious plans have been hampered by economic woes, and acompromise spending plan — approved by a House and Senate conference committee this week — will cut the agency’s spending money even further. Nasa will receive $17.8 billion this fiscal year — $924 million less than the White House requested and $684 million less than it received this year.
Thankfully, a House bid to cancel Nasa’s over-budget James Webb Space Telescope — a super powerful telescope that will succeed the ageing Hubble in 2018 — has been denied, but the compromise bill has capped the program’s spending at $8 billion.
$3.8 billion will go towards the human space exploration programs that these budding astronauts are being hired for, while $406 million has been earmarked to fund commercial spaceship development at Boeing, Space X, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin.