NASA to Begin Recruiting Astronauts for Its Upcoming Missions to the Moon and Mars

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New candidates will likely be selected in mid-2021.

NASA intends to send the first woman and next man to the moon by 2024, create a sustainable lunar exploration program by 2028 and launch humans to Mars (for the first time ever) in the mid-2030s, all through its Artemis program. 

The space agency unveiled Tuesday that applications for those who’ll make it all happen—its “next class of Artemis Generation astronauts”—will open March 2 and be accepted through March 31. For the first time in history, applicants will also have to complete a two-hour online assessment as part of their submission.

“For the handful of highly talented women and men we will hire to join our diverse astronaut corps, it’s an incredible time in human spaceflight to be an astronaut,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in the announcement. 

NASA handpicked 350 people to train as astronaut candidates since the 1960s, and currently has 48 astronauts serving in its active corps. To join them, prospective applicants will start by applying to the forthcoming job posting, which will go live on usajobs.gov. Basic requirements to submit an application include being a U.S. citizen, passing a long-duration spaceflight physical test, and having a master’s degree in a STEM-related field (or comparable professional experience) as well as two years of relevant professional work.

The president’s budget request for fiscal 2021 included a bump to support the ambitious Artemis aims. It’s up by a few billion from $22.6 billion in enacted funds for fiscal 2020 to $25.2 billion proposed for 2021. The new request also explicitly includes more than $12 billion for NASA’s moon-to-Mars missions. However, it provides zero funding for the Office of STEM Engagement and redirected those dollars to the agency’s “core mission of exploration.” Still, Bridenstine said the request represents a 12% increase, which in his opinion renders it to be “one of the strongest budgets in NASA history” that will keep the agency “firmly” on its Artemis path. 

The agency said it anticipates selecting the new astronaut candidates in mid-2021.