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NASA looking for new astronauts: Do you have the right stuff?

October 4, 2011 |  3:43 pm


Ever dreamed of being an astronaut? If the answer is yes, then NASA just might have space for you.

(NASA's joke, not ours!)

On Tuesday, NASA announced it would start accepting applications for its next class of astronaut candidates sometime in November. The last class of nine astronauts graduated in 2009. NASA expects the upcoming class to graduate in 2013.

"For scientists, engineers and other professionals who have always dreamed of experiencing spaceflight, this is an exciting time to join the astronaut corps," said Janet Kavandi, director of flight crew operations at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, in a statement.

To be considered as a candidate, you'll need a bachelor's degree in engineering, science or math -- plus three years of relevant, post-university work experience. Graduate degrees are a plus, and can be substituted for time spent working in the real world.

It would also help to have extensive experience flying high-performance jet aircraft.

According to NASA's astronaut brochure, applicants will be selected from both the civilian world and the military.

Duane Ross, manager for astronaut candidate and training selection for NASA, told The Times that there was no specific age range for candidates and that, in the past, the agency has interviewed applicants as young as 23 and as old as 50. Candidates who have been selected range from 24 to 47.

Applicants do need to have distance vision that is correctable to 20/20 and a resting blood pressure that does not exceed 140/90. Eligible candidates will also have to be between 5 foot 2 and 6 foot 3.

Ross said that NASA would run a physical on all qualifying candidates, but that applicants didn't have to be in amazing shape. "We don't make people run 10 miles just to apply," he said. "Once they get here, we'll torture them and make them fit."

The actual astronaut training will take place at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston and will take about two years. Ross said the agency's goal is to graduate all the students.

He said the agency did not yet know how many students it would accept.

"The only guarantee I can give you is that, if you don't apply, you won't get in," he said.


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-- Deborah Netburn

Image: Astronauts in simulated weightless flight in C-131 aircraft flying "zero-g" trajectory at Wright Air Development Center in 1959. Credit: NASA Digital.