The space agency held a briefing Tuesday at its headquarters to announce the selection process for the 2013 class of astronauts.
“These are exciting times here at NASA,and this an especially exciting day,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.
Janet Kavandi,flight crew operations director,said NASA goes through the selection process about every two to four years. She said NASA selects astronauts to preserve the pool of qualified individuals needed to fly into space and to operate the International Space Station.
The 30-year-old Space Shuttle program concluded July 21 when Atlantis landed for the last time.
“We’re extremely proud of the trailblazing accomplishments of our shuttle astronauts over the past 30 years,but with the end of the shuttle program,we’re now setting our sights on even more distant horizons,” Bolden said. “We are once again ready to go where no man or woman has gone before.”
Interested individuals are encouraged to apply at USAJobs.gov before Jan. 27. The page lists requirements,qualifications,duties and the evaluation process. The annual salary is from $64,724 to $141,715 and a “bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering,biological science,physical science or mathematics” is required.
NASA usually gets between 3,000 and 4,000 valid applications and expects the same number for this class,Michael Curie,NASA public affairs specialist,said in an email.
Training takes about two years to complete.
Kavandi said the training process has gotten harder because at the International Space Station,everyone needs to know how to do every job.
Astronaut Serena Aunon,of League City,Texas,a member of the class of 2009,which trained differently than astronauts who preceded them,spoke about her training. Their training will be similar to future classes.
“We were one of the first classes that came in knowing we would never fly in the shuttle,” she said.
Aunon said the training her class went through focused on three main areas: international space station systems,robotics and extravehicular activities.
Four other 2009 astronauts also spoke about their experiences: Kjell Lindgren,of League City,Texas; Kathleen Rubins,of Cambridge,Mass.; Scott Tingle,of Hollywood,Md.,and Mark Vande Hei,of El Lago,Texas.
Teachers and sixth to eighth grade students from Whittier Education Campus in D.C. attended the announcement. Nine National Science Foundation Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellows and more than 20 graduate-level student ambassadors were also in the audience.
Bolden spoke to the importance of education in the so-called STEM disciplines – science,technology,engineering and mathematics – and said the students and educators were the key to NASA’s future.
“For space exploration and education go hand-in-hand,after all that’s what space exploration is all about,” he said. “Expanding our knowledge of the solar system and our relationship to it so that we can make life better here on earth.”
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