It is easy to apply, but the odds of being picked are slim. The last time NASA hired a group of astronauts was in 2009. Out of about 3,500 that applied, only nine Americans made the cut.
Manager of NASA's astronaut candidate programs Duane Ross said he only expects about eight to 12 astronauts will be hired this time, and those hired won't even hear the good news until 2013.
The selected astronauts could be the some of the first astronauts to visit a nearth-Earth asteroid.
NASA says it's opening the application process for astronaut candidates in early November, for the first time since the shuttle fleet's retirement this summer.
Even though the shuttles will never fly again, and even though astronauts will be traveling to the International Space Station exclusively on Russian spacecraft for at least the next three years, it takes years to train a new crop of spacefliers and get them into the rotation. The class of candidates to be selected over the next year and a half could conceivably be among the first visitors to a near-Earth asteroid in the mid-2020s.
"For scientists, engineers and other professionals who have always dreamed of experiencing spaceflight, this is an exciting time to join the astronaut corps," Janet Kavandi, director of flight crew operations at NASA's Johnson Space Center. said in today's announcement on the selection process. "This next class will support missions to the station and will arrive via transportation systems now in development. They also will have the opportunity to participate in NASA's continuing exploration programs that will include missions beyond low Earth orbit."
Click here to read more about the NASA astronaut selection process and what their duties will include.