NASA astronaut selection timeline update

NASA will take an extra month to whittle down its approximately 400 Highly Qualified applicants to the 100 or so it plans to interview. That's what I infer from from the latest update to the Astronaut Candidate Selection Process Timeline. Interviewees will now be brought to JSC through January instead of December, with finalists determined by February and the new ASCAN class announced by June. These changes are noted by the red color in the updated table below. The report date for the Astronaut Candidate Class of 2013 remains August 2013. Good luck, everyone!

November 15, 2011 Vacancy Announcement opens at USAJOBS.
January 27, 2012 Vacancy Announcement closes.
May-September 2012 Qualified Applications reviewed to determine Highly Qualified applicants. Qualifications Inquiry form sent to Supervisors / References and civilian applicants contacted by mail to obtain an FAA medical exam.
August-December 2012 Highly Qualified applications reviewed to determine Interviewees.
October 2012-January 2013 Interviewees brought to JSC for preliminary interview, medical evaluation, and orientation. Interviewees will be selected from the Highly Qualified group and contacted on a week-by-week basis.
February 2013 Finalists determined.
February-April 2013 Finalists brought to JSC for additional interview and complete medical evaluation.
June 2013 Astronaut Candidate Class of 2013 announced
August 2013 Astronaut Candidate Class of 2013 reports to the Johnson Space Center.

Here is a fun piece of trivia for you. Who completed the first triathlon in space, and when? The answer is that Sunita Williams completed the Nautica Malibu Triathlon from her perch on the ISS last weekend on September 16. She used the station's stationary cycle and treadmill for the bike and run portions. Since there is no swimming pool on the orbiting outpost, Williams simulated the swim portion with some strength training exercise equipment. This isn't her first time as a virtual racer. You may recall that she ran the Boston Marathon from the ISS back in 2007. Here is the video coverage from NASA TV:


One small step for a man...

Brian Shiro with Neil Armstrong (Feb 2012).
Alternate photo shaking hands here.
The world lost one of history's most important heroes this week. Hundreds of years from now, Neil Armstrong will still be a household name. I am humbled that I got to meet the first moonwalker this past February when he talked about his days as an X-15 test pilot prior to becoming an astronaut. Being bombarded by many eager admirers, we just had a few moments for me to thank him for his inspiring life, but I am grateful for the opportunity to be in presence of a man of such great humility and achievement. It has been four decades since we ventured to another world. We cannot let the innate human drive for exploration and new knowledge wither. Will the accomplishments of Armstrong and his fellow Apollo astronauts be the high water mark of our civilization, or will we honor them by venturing to Mars and beyond? Every day I came to work this past week, I have been greeted by a flag at half staff to honor the memory of Neil Armstrong, as directed by President Obama. That's one small step in the right direction.

This week was particularly bittersweet for me because, amidst this sad news, I learned that I had made it to Highly Qualified round of NASA's current astronaut selection. Like a student awaiting a college acceptance letter, I have been eagerly checking the mailbox every day for the past month in the hopes that a letter from NASA might be there. Well, that letter arrived, and my references have informed me that NASA has contacted them too. Along with the other approximately 400 Highly Qualified applicants in 2012, my next small step is getting a medical exam from an Aviation Medical Examiner and waiting to see if NASA likes what my references have to say. According to NASA's timeline, around 100 applicants will be asked to Houston by November for an interview and further tests. Given the much higher competitiveness of the applicant pool in 2012 compared with 2008, more people are vying for the same number of slots. I am humbled to once again be part of the Highly Qualified group.

Armstrong was a very private man who rarely made public appearances. However, in recent years he did seem to become a little more comfortable in his role as a public figure. For example, in 2009 he reunited with fellow Apollo 11 crewmembers at the White House to mark the 40th anniversary of their historic mission. In 2005, he granted an interview on CBS's 60 Minutes, which you can view below. His final interview recorded last year is available in 4 parts from CPA Australia and offers many insights into Armstrong's memories of Apollo, as does his 2005 authorized biography First Man.

NASA has collected memorials and statements on its tribute to Neil Armstrong page. I'll leave you with what Armstrong's family had to say in their statement:

"While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves."

"For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."