As the year winds down, and we all get busy with our holiday traditions, the business of choosing NASA's 21st astronaut class carries on. Since October, NASA has been bringing interviewees to Houston in groups of 20 for further medical screenings, performance testing, and of course interviews with the selection board. Altogether, there are 6 groups of interviewees for a total of 120 candidates out of the 6372 total applicants.
I checked with the Astronaut Selection Office, and they confirmed that they have called nearly all of the interviewees. They just have a handful more to call to fill out the January interview groups. If you are a Highly Qualified applicant awaiting that call from NASA like me, you can hold out hope for a little while longer that you might be among this small number of yet-to-be-contacted interviewees. The first round of interviews will wrap up in late January, and then NASA will narrow its selection to about 50 finalists who will be called back to Houston from February to April for additional interviews, testing, and complete medical evaluation.
Heading the selection effort is Robert Behnken, who took over the role of NASA's Chief Astronaut when Peggy Whitson stepped down in July. According to the SPACE.com article announcing the leadership change and a more recent USA TODAY article, NASA currently has 52 flight-eligible astronauts and will choose 9-15 new astronauts candidates in the 2013 class. They intend to keep the post-Shuttle era NASA astronaut corps to about 65 people.