NASA announced Friday that more than 18,000 individuals applied to be a member of the space agency’s 2017 astronaut class, more than double the previous record set in 1978.
Applications opened on Dec. 14 and closed Thursday, and the group of 18,000 applicants will be whittled to 8-14 finalists. NASA said it expects to announce its selections in mid-2017.
“It’s not at all surprising to me that so many Americans from diverse backgrounds want to personally contribute to blazing the trail on our journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “A few exceptionally talented men and women will become the astronauts chosen in this group who will once again launch to space from U.S. soil on American-made spacecraft.”
Over the next 15 months, NASA will evaluate applicants before training the small group.
“We have our work cut out for us with this many applications,” said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at Johnson. “But it’s heartening to know so many people recognize what a great opportunity this is to be part of NASA’s exciting mission.”
NASA will train astronauts on spacecraft systems, spacewalking skills, teamwork and Russian language.
The 18,000 astronaut applicants surpass the 8,000 people who applied for the job in 1978. The last time NASA had an opening was in 2012. That year, 6,000 applied for the position.
Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs.