NASA Wants You (Yes, You) for a Manned Mission to Mars

Do you have what it takes to boldly go where no man has gone before?
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Do you have what it takes to boldly go where no man has gone before?
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As NASA plans to resume its manned spaceflight operations after years  buying rides from the Russians, the agency is seeking a fresh class of of aspiring astronauts to operate the International Space Station for the next 15 years and potentially participate in deep space missions to Mars and beyond.

This sounds like a job reserved for Navy or Air Force pilots, but that's not the case. Starting Dec. 14, the space agency is accepting applications from prospective astronauts from all walks of life.

Yes, you read that right: Your dream of becoming an astronaut could actually come true.

To apply, you'll need to be a U.S. citizen with at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited university in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics (as with most jobs, an advanced degree is even better.) You'll also need at least three years of relevant work experience, while pilot candidates need at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command flight time to qualify. If you make the cut, you'll still need to pass the long-duration spaceflight physical, which will likely make future colonoscopies seem unintrusive by comparison.

While the earliest missions for this new crop will likely involve manning the ISS, NASA is also looking for candidates with the express goal of a manned mission to Mars in mind.

“This next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realize the goal of putting boot prints on the Red Planet,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Those selected for this service will fly on U.S. made spacecraft from American soil, advance critical science and research aboard the International Space Station, and help push the boundaries of technology in the proving ground of deep space.”

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“This is an exciting time to be a part of America’s human space flight program,” said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “NASA has taken the next step in the evolution of our nation’s human spaceflight program – and our U.S. astronauts will be at the forefront of these new and challenging space flight missions.”

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In addition to NASA's Orion capsule on the Space Launch System rocket, astronauts will also fly aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsules.

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NASA will start accepting applications on Dec. 14, so don't delay: the last time the agency opened up astronaut applications back in 2012, it received over 6,000 responses, the most since 1978. And according to Quartz, you'll be signing up for the most exciting period of exploration in the history of spaceflight:

[C]andidates will have to be patient. As far as human spaceflight goes, NASA is singularly focused on sending astronauts to Mars over the next several decades. The first manned test flight of the Orion spacecraft—which will orbit the moon—is set for 2021. A few years after that, astronauts aboard Orion will explore an asteroid. And if all goes according to plan, humans will walk on the surface of Mars in the 2030s.

So start polishing those resumes, fellas — NASA's keeping their eyes peeled for the right stuff for the next age of space exploration.

Follow Dan Carney on Twitter.