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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Hey! Wanna Be an Astronaut?

By Phil Plait

Ever dreamed of flying in space, floating by a window in a space station, watching the Earth slide past you at 8 kilometers per second? Or maybe riding a Boeing capsule to an asteroid, or a SpaceX rocket to Mars?

Now you have a chance to quite literally make your dream a reality. NASA is hiring astronauts.

NASA is accepting applications for a new class of astronauts. Today, more new human spacecraft are in development in the United States (U.S.) than at any time in history, and future Astronaut Candidates will have the opportunity to explore farther in space than humans have ever been. 

Oh, that opening line. I hadn’t really thought of it in those terms, but it’s true. Boeing’s CST-100, SpaceX’s Dragon V2, and NASA’s own Orion capsule—all three are currently under development, and if they all wind up in production it will open a lot of chances to explore space*.

In my life I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a few of the people who have traveled to space. In my experience this most recent generation of astronauts has been comprised of some of the most intelligent, compassionate, driven, kind, and forward-thinking human beings our species has to offer. Set aside any hype, any mythos about them, and you are still left with a group who are a breed apart, an inspiration to what we can do when we strive for the stars.

It’s hard to say what lays ahead for NASA—plans change, governments priorities fluctuate, and random chance always plays its role—but it’s entirely possible that a young man or woman applying to be an astronaut in this round could be the first person to leave a footprint on Mars.

That, I think, is a dream worth trying to make happen.

My thanks to Reid Wiseman for alerting me to this; he knows of which he speaks.

*There are a lot of caveats here, of course, and my feelings about Orion are on record and haven’t changed. But even without it, in just a couple of years the ability available to NASA to launch humans into space will grow enormously.

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