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NASA looking for new astronauts in preparation for Mars mission

The space agency will begin accepting applications for its next astronaut class in December.
Robert L. Curbeam, Jr., is pictured on the exterior of the International Space Station (Photo by NASA/Getty)
In this NASA handout photo astronaut Robert L. Curbeam, Jr., STS-116 mission specialist, prepares to replace a faulty TV camera on the exterior of the International Space Station during the mission's first of three planned sessions of extravehicular activity (EVA) on Dec. 12, 2006 while in flight.

NASA wants you to help it go to Mars.

The space exploration agency has been working to conduct a human mission to Mars by the 2030s and begin spaceflight launches again, and it needs more astronauts to do so.

“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 said in a statement on Nov. 4.

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A 2014 National Research Council report conducted by Congress said the trajectory of the agency at the time would prevent it from touching foot on the planet. The report made clear that NASA’s strategy should be to focus on Mars.

There are currently 47 active astronauts in the corps. This number has decreased from 61 active astronauts in 2011. The highest number of active astronauts occurred in 2000 with 150.

The agency will begin accepting applications for its next class of astronauts on Dec. 14. The deadline will be in mid-February, and final decisions will be made in 2017.

The main qualification for applying to be an astronaut is earning a degree in engineering, biology, physics or mathematics. Typical candidates include pilots, engineers, scientists, and medical doctors.

NASA has not said exactly how many new astronauts will be hired, but the last time the agency called for applications, it received over 6,000 and accepted eight.