NASA, Russia Recruiting Future Space Voyagers

Both NASA and Roscosmos are moving ahead with the recruitment of new astronauts and cosmonauts for missions into Earth orbit and beyond.

NASA’s most recent call resulted in 6,372 applications, which the space agency says is twice as many as normal and the second highest number ever received. In 1978, more than 8,000 people applied as NASA geared up for the space shuttle era.

“The Flight Crew Operations Directorate is very happy with the large number of applicants for the astronaut program,” Janet Kavandi, Director of Flight Crew Operations, said in a press release. “NASA feels strongly that an appropriate mix of skills, education, and background provide the office with a greater ability to successfully work a wide array of operational situations.”

“Historically, we’ve received between 2,500 and 3,500 applications for each class,” added Duane Ross, who leads NASA’s Astronaut Selection Office. “We were a bit surprised, but very pleased by the overwhelming response to our recent Astronaut Candidate vacancy announcement. To me, this demonstrates the fact that the public remains genuinely interested in continuing the exploration of space. As for my office, we will be busy for a while.”

NASA describes the selection process as such:

During the next couple of months, Astronaut Selection Office staff will sort through the applications to compare them to a list of basic qualifications. Those applications that meet these qualifications will then be reviewed by a selection committee to identify “highly qualified” applicants. The panel will determine which remaining applicants will be invited for an interview and medical evaluations.

The interview process will be a two-step process. Initial interviews will be conducted by the Astronaut Selection Board beginning in August and will continue through October. Then, starting in November and running through January 2013, final interviews will be held along with medical evaluations of each applicant.

The Astronaut Selection Board is expected to make its final decision in the spring of 2013 with the new Astronauts Candidates reporting for training that summer. The new candidates will undergo two years of training before being eligible for mission assignments.

Meanwhile, a Russian evaluation committee has invited four out of 25 applicants for further interviews and evaluations, Roscosmos PAO reports. The committee which plans to make selections this year, includes representatives from the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, RSC Energia, the Institute for Biomedical Problems, and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Roscosmos issued the call for new cosmonauts last week. The space agency expects to select cosmonaut candidates this year.