NASA has announced that it will start accepting applications for its next class of astronaut candidates in November.
For scientists, engineers and other professionals who have always dreamed of experiencing space flight, this is an exciting time to join the astronaut corps, said Janet Kavandi, director of flight crew operations at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The last class of nine astronauts graduated in 2009. NASA expects the new class to graduate in 2013.
Candidates must have a bachelor's degree in engineering, science or math plus three years of relevant, post-university work experience. Graduate degrees are a plus and can be substituted for time spent working in the real world.
Applicants do need to have distance vision that is correctable to 20/20 and a resting blood pressure that does not exceed 140/90. Eligible candidates will also have to be between 5 feet 2 and 6 feet 3.
Last month the National Research Council reported that NASA needs to hire more astronauts if it is to undertake further manned missions. The report warned that the astronaut corps appears to be sized below the minimum required and that the current number poses a risk to the U.S. investment in human space flight capabilities.
NASA's astronaut corps peaked at 149 in 2000. It's now down to 60. NASA projects it will need a minimum of 55 to 60 astronauts over the next five years.
NASA's space station astronauts face a daunting training regime that has been streamlined in recent years, but still includes years of preparation for the typical six-month stay on the orbiting laboratory.