Right now, spread out across the United States, there are some 18,300 people who share one thing in common: they all submitted applications to become the next U.S. astronauts.
So many people applied — almost three times as many as NASA's earlier record — that Yuri's Night, the world space party that celebrates the past, present and future of human spaceflight, thinks that it merits a badge of honor, literally.
"It's a way to celebrate the record-breaking response to the next astronaut-selection process," explained Ryan Kobrick, Yuri's Night chairman and president. "Selections like these make us all better citizens... as we consider what more we can offer."
"Plus, space patches are cool!" he added.
The #BeAnAstronaut patch was designed for Yuri's Night by artist Tim Gagnon, whose portfolio includes some of the official crew emblems for NASA's space shuttle missions and for the International Space Station expeditions. Most recently, Gagnon helped to design the insignia for the first one-year missionon the space station completed by U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko.
For this patch, Gagnon chose the shape of a capsule, as a nod to the spacecraft that the new astronauts will fly.
Hands extending up from the bottom of the patch illustrate the number of people "reaching for the stars." Two hands, outstretched from the left, are shown grasping for a silver astronaut pin, the award given to all new NASA candidates who pass their basic training.
From the right, a spacesuited arm bears a mirror reflecting the image of the International Space Station, as a symbol of the past. The future destinations of the moon and Mars are front and center on the insignia.
Inscribed along the border are "Class of 2017," the roman numerals for 22 ("XXII") in reference to the 22nd astronaut selection, the statement "I Applied to #BeAnAstronaut," and the slogan "So You're Saying There's A Chance..."
Available for sale through April 30 for $5 each, part of the proceeds from the patches will go to support Yuri's Night, a registered nonprofit organization. Patches can be ordered through the Yuri’s Night website at yurisnight.net.
"Even for those who did not apply to be a NASA astronaut, these patches show [their] support for the future of human spaceflight and the upcoming class of NASA astronauts," Yuri's Night wrote on its website. "For those that did apply, this patch is 'Critical Space Hardware' that applicants will want to have on their journeys to the cosmos."
"Wouldn't it be wonderful if all 18,300 applicants had one?" remarked Gagnon.
NASA officials have said the agency plans to select eight to 14 candidates out of the 18,300 applications received. The space agency plans to reveal the new class in June 2017.
Yuri's Night parties are held annually on April 12, the date that Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin launched on the first human spaceflight in 1961 and that 20 years later, the first NASA space shuttle lifted off to orbit the Earth.