Astronaut Hopefuls Face Stiff Competition

Do you want to be an astronaut? So does everyone else. More than 6,300 people have applied for the positions at NASA, the agency announced Friday.

This is the second highest number of applicants following the call for astronauts in 1978 that netted 8,000 applications from people hoping to go boldly where few have gone before.

NASA's Astronaut Selection Office staff, along with current astronauts, will review the applications and conduct interviews to narrow the field to a class of nine to 15.

When NASA sent out its open call for astronauts last November the only requirements included a bachelor's degree in math, science or engineering and three years of professional experience. Those selected will have to undergo two years of training to learn Russian as well as space station systems and spacewalking skills.

"We will be looking for people who really stand out," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center and chair of the Astronaut Selection Board. "Our team not only will be looking at their academic background and professional accomplishments but also at other elements of their personality and character traits -- what types of hobbies they have or unique life experiences. We want and need a mix of individuals and skills for this next phase of human exploration."