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.
According to Whitson, "We want and need a mix of individuals and skills for this next phase of human exploration." The new phase of human exploration includes yearlong missions to the ISS, a possible cislunar L2 base, and a renewed Mars exploration program aimed at getting humans there by the 2030s. Such remote, long-duration missions will require a great deal of attention to crew selection and preparation, which Alexander Kumar outlined nicely in his recent New York Times article "Preparing an Ideal Astronaut".
And now for something on the lighter side. Check out the video "NASA Johnson Style" for a shot of inspiration and smiles. Astronauts Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Clayton Anderson, and Mike Massimino (back from his mission on The Big Bang Theory) lent their talent to the fun celebration of NASA Johnson.
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