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.

Imagine giving up 520 days of your life to spend in isolation with five other people confined inside a cramped cylinder about the size of a semi trailer pretending you're on a mission to Mars. That's what the intrepid crew of the Mars500 Project just did. During the 74-weeks of their mission, which included a simulated roundtrip journey to Mars complete with a short surface excursion, the crew carried out more than 100 experiments to assess the effects of isolation on their psychological and physiological well being.

The international crew ranges from ages 27 to 38 and is comprised of three Russians (Alexey Sityev, Sukhrob Kamolov,Alexander Smoleevskiy "Siev"), two Europeans (Romain Charles of France, Diego Urbina of Italy-Colombia), and one Chinese national (Wang Yue). They "landed" on Earth at 14:00 Moscow time (10:00 GMT) today when the hatch to their sealed habitat at the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IMBP) was opened for the first time since June 3, 2010.  After emerging, each crewmember gave a brief statement to the crowd of dignitaries, scientists, and the media. Seven minutes later they were whisked away for four days of medical quarantine. They will gain full freedom on November 8 following a press conference. You can watch the hatch opening video replay or learn more on ESA's website.


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