Astronauthopefuls with the right stuff have a fresh chance to reach for theInternational Space Station and, ultimately, the moon, thanks to a new NASAhunt for qualified spaceflyers.
The U.S.space agency announced Tuesday that it is accepting applications for its 2009Astronaut Candidate Class. Would-be spaceflyers haveuntil July 1, 2008 to apply, the agency said.
"Theywould begin duty at the Johnson Space Center in August 2009," NASAspokesperson Katherine Trinidad told SPACE.com of the new astronauts. Based in Houston,Texas, the Johnson Space Center (JSC) is home to NASA's space shuttle and ISSmission controls, as well as its astronaut corps.
Aftercompleting basic training, members of the 2009 astronaut class could go on tofly long-duration flights to the ISS or lunar flights aboard NASA's future OrionCrew Exploration Vehicles, NASA officials said.
Trinidadsaid there are currently 91 active NASA astronauts training for spaceflights orperforming technical duties. An additional 15 international spaceflyersare also on active duty, she added.
To beconsidered for NASA's astronaut corps, applicants must hold a bachelor's degreein engineering, science or mathematics and have three years of relevantprofessional experience, the space agency said.
While mostsuccessful applicants are veteran engineers, scientists or pilots of high-performancejets, NASA also urged educators to apply for its newest class of astronauts.Experienced teachers of kindergarten through the 12th grade level are alsoconsidered qualified, NASA officials added.
There arecurrently four educator astronauts in NASA's spaceflyingranks, the first of whom -- formerIdaho schoolteacher Barbara Morgan -- completed her first spaceflight last monthaboard the space shuttle Endeavour. Morgan participated in ISS constructionduring NASA's STS-118 mission in August and served as backup to the agency's firstTeacher in Space Christa McAuliffe before the 1986 Challenger accident.
NASA willannounce the final selections for the new astronaut class in early 2009 after asix-month interview and evaluation process.
"Welook forward to gathering applications and then being able to select from thelargest pool possible," said veteran astronaut Ellen Ochoa, NASA's chiefof flight crew operations at JSC, in a statement.
The 2009astronaut candidates will be NASA's first new space-bound class since 2004,when 11new spaceflyers joined the U.S. space agency.Included in the 2004 group were three educator astronauts. A trio of spaceflyers from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency(JAXA) also trained alongside the 2004 class.
To applyfor NASA's 2009 astronaut class, visit here: http://www.usajobs.gov
Click here or call (281)483-5907 for more information via NASA's Astronaut Selection Office.
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