Over 18,300 people have applied to join NASA’s latest astronaut class, breaking the previous record of 8,000 submissions set in 1978. This year’s turnout was also nearly 3 times higher than NASA’s last call for applications in 2012.
Each of these hopefuls is competing to be in the newest class of 14 astronauts who will ultimately fly on one of NASA’s next spacecraft. And while that small number may be intimidating, basic qualifications to become an astronaut candidate aren’t as preventive as one may think.
For their service, whether in space or on the ground, astronauts get paid a government salary that can range from $66,000 to $144,500 per year, depending on their academic achievements and experience.
Between now and September, the 18,300 applicants will be reviewed by a NASA panel and narrowed down to 400-600 “Highly Qualified” candidates. Dean said that astronauts with flight experience would be highly involved in that selection process.
Highly Qualified applications will then be narrowed down to 120 people who will be interviewed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Interviews will take place between February and April of 2017 and will be conducted by the Astronaut Selection Board, which is made up primarily of experienced astronauts.
By May 2017, finalists are determined and by June NASA will officially announce the newest Astronaut class to the public.
With more applicants than they’ve ever received, NASA’s astronaut selection committee has their work cut out for them. In August of 2017, 14 of those 18,300 candidates will start their astronaut candidate training and begin their journey of – hopefully – ending up on a NASA mission into space.