Last November, NASA announced it was accepting applications for its next class of astronauts. Probably one of the more obscure jobs you’ll find listed on the federal government’s USAJobs.gov website, NASA received nearly 6,400 applications by the end of the application period that ended on January 27. By the end of May of next year, those 6,000-plus applications will undergo a rigorous selection process that will result in nine to fifteen new NASA astronauts.
The last astronaut class — Group 20, nicknamed “The Chumps” 1 — was selected in 2009, when nine men and women made the cut. While the 2009 class hasn’t made it to space yet, all of them have finished their training and have begun their first technical assignments inside NASA’s Astronaut Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and of them, one (Michael Hopkins) has been assigned to a space mission in which he is currently undergoing mission-specific training for.
The number of applications for Astronaut Group 21, was only topped by the number received in the late 1970s, when NASA was recruiting the first astronauts to fly the Space Shuttle.
A lot happens between now and August of next year, when the Astronaut Candidate Class of 2013 reports to the Johnson Space Center. The process involves background checks, medical evaluations, and interviews. Finalists will be determined at the end of this year, with the Astronaut Candidate Class being announced next May. (Check out Candidate Selection Process timeline.)
For those that applied, good luck! I look forward to meeting our next batch of NASA astronauts.
For more information on the NASA astronaut program, visit the Astronaut Program website.
- For the past couple of decades or so, the next group of selected astronauts is named by the previous class. Group 17, “The Penguins” named Group 18, “The Bugs”. The Bugs went on to name Group 19, “The Peacocks”. The Peacocks then went to name Group 20, “The Chumps”. We’ll have to wait and see what name The Chumps have in store for Group 21. ↩