NASA Astronaut Candidate Application Period Opens

If you've ever dreamed of being a NASA astronaut to live on the International Space Station and maybe one day explore a world beyond low earth orbit, now is your chance to make it happen. As expected, NASA issued a press release earlier today officially kicking off its 2011-2012 application opportunity.

All materials are due to the Astronaut Office by January 27, 2011, so I recommend wasting no time to read the Application Guide, dust off your resume, and call your references. Speaking of references, you may want to take a look at JSC Form 726 to get an idea of what kinds of questions NASA might ask them.  Applications are only accepted through USAJOBS announcement #JS12A0001.  See the full selection process timeline here or at at astronauts.nasa.gov.  Minimum qualification requirements for 2012 applicants are the same as in 2008:
  • Bachelor's degree in an applicable field
  • 3 years professional experience (or a combination of equivalent education/pilot-in-command time)
  • vision correctable to 20/20 (refractive surgery okay if done more than one year ago)
  • resting blood pressure no more than 140/90
  • height 62-75 inches (due to Soyuz and EVA anthropometric requirements)
  • U.S. citizenship
Approximately 9-15 astronaut candidate selections will be chosen and announced in spring 2013.  The candidates will undergo two years of intensive training in areas of ISS systems, EVA skills, robotics skills, Russian language, and aircraft flight readiness training.

Since I began this blog in 2007 following NASA's last astronaut candidate opportunity announcement, I've been asking the question, What does it take to have the "right stuff" to be an astronaut?  It's been an exciting journey exploring the topic with the world through this blog and now through the establishment of Astronauts4Hire too.  I invite readers to check here often for updates as this astronaut selection process unfolds.

16 November 2011 Update:
Here is the video from the one-hour press conference announcing the NASA Class of 2013 Astronaut Candidate class application opportunity:

18 November 2011 Update:
Astronaut Candidate Selection Manager Duane Ross spoke about the 2012-2013 selection process in a recent interview for NASA TV. He mentioned they had already received 400 applications in the first three days the application period had been open. Senior astronauts with spaceflight experience conduct most of the applicant reviews. The main thing they look for in applicants is experience working with teams in a real-time, hands-on technical operational environment.


Anonymous said...

Do you know what they mean when they say applicants with degrees in "Technology".. specifically "engineering technology" are not qualified?

It seems to indicate that degrees in "engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics" are the target but then goes on to rule out "engineering technology".... what engineering are they looking for?

Would a degree in computer science qualify or not qualify?

brian said...

I think they mean that only degrees that train scientists or engineers count. Degrees that train technicians are not eligible. Think 4-year university vs. 2-year technical college. I'm guessing computer science would count if it is in the academic context of research rather than the context of IT support. The fields they specifically list as not qualifying include:

--Degrees in Technology (Engineering Technology, Aviation Technology, Medical Technology, etc.)
--Degrees in Psychology (except for Clinical Psychology, Physiological Psychology, or Experimental Psychology, which are qualifying)
--Degrees in Nursing
--Degrees in Exercise Physiology or similar fields
--Degrees in Social Sciences (Geography, Anthropology, Archaeology, etc.)
--Degrees in Aviation, Aviation Management, or similar fields

Anonymous said...

Your blog says 9-15 positions. I thought I heard there may be as many as 50 positions. If you're correct, my odds just went down by at least 3x. It seems like with the changes in the program post-shuttle, along with the projected retirees and potential attrition from new appointees, a class of 50 would make more sense.

Oh well, my odds are still better than the lottery.

brian said...

The head of the Astronaut Office Peggy Whitson has stated in multiple interviews that they expect to hire 9-15 astronaut candidates. Note that in 2007-9, NASA also stated the range would be 9-15, and they ended up choosing 9. Given the funding situation and economic situation today, I would estimate the next class will be on the smaller rather than larger side of this range.

lrrpinator said...

Brian, you are quite correct that computer science -- provided it is taught in a natural sciences department vs. a technical school context -- IS qualifying. If you have a careful look at NASA's astronaut bios, several from the STS era received their academic degrees in that subject. Those going that route need to be exceedingly careful to avoid confusing comp sci with IT. Software or hardware engineering, such as taken through the electrical engineering department would obviously qualify as well. Now let's get around to those who did the IT (or similar "technology") route already: take the effort to pick up an additional degree in a field that clearly IS unambiguously qualifying, and then you're good-to-go. While the hands-on technical experience in itself won't qualify, it also wouldn't hurt.

PSYCHOLOGY.... I'll address this, as one of my undergrad majors was in this field. Experimental, clinical or physiological psychology will need to be specifically stated as your major field of study on your transcript and must appear on your diploma as such; other branches, or simply general psych will not count. Experimental psychology may also be termed "human factors" or "human factors engineering"; e.g.: University of Idaho's postgrad program in human factors engineering is run by their Engineering Outreach, however your diploma is going to say "Master of Science in experimental psychology". Physiological psychology has several nuanced variations (e.g.: neuroscience, biopsychology) and can often be found in a combined degree program with animal science (e.g.: PhD/MSc, PhD/DVM or DVM/MSc). In either case, you'll have a strong background in probability and statistics, as well as experimental design. By inference, these specialties will be at the magisterial or doctoral level; at the baccalaureate level, you won't have the depth or experience for any specialization beyond "general" to have any real meaning. To date, no-one whose creds are exclusively in any field of psych has made it in. YET. If you do your undergrad work in psych, do a double major in another field from the qualifying list.

Re: NURSING. I personally am baffled at the exclusion of this one, however those are the current rules. Still, having this IN COMBINATION with another (qualifying) field could still help one to build a strong case for inclusion as a potential Crew Medical Officer. It's usually a really straightforward process for an RN or BSN to pick up a BA or BSc in biology, so that's not a big worry for those who went that route in the past.

In my case, what I have already includes:

BSc in biology and psychology

Master of Public Health

Master of Science in space studies (aerospace science) (IN-PROGRESS)

Commercial Pilot Certificate w/ Instrument Rating

Advanced/Instrument Ground Instructor

FAA Class I medical certificate

Civil Air Patrol Pilot and Observer ratings; SCUBA (OW/nitrox); military parachutist; Combat Infantryman Badge (from two recent tours in Iraq)... a few other things as well.