More than 6,300 individuals applied to become part of NASA's next generation of astronauts. It was the highest number of applications ever received by the agency since 1978, and the call garnered more than 8,000 submissions. Typically, the agency receives between 2,500 and 3,500 applicants for astronaut vacancy announcements.
The Astronaut Selection Office staff will sort through the applications to compare them with a list of basic qualifications. After a thorough selection process, which includes interviews and medical examinations, nine to 15 people will be selected to become part of the 21st astronaut class.
NASA expects to announce a final selection of astronaut candidates in the spring of 2013. Training will then begin that summer.
The selected astronaut candidates will have two years of initial training. Subjects will include space station systems, Russian language and spacewalking skills training. Those who complete the training will be assigned technical duties within the Astronaut Office at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Later assignments could include missions aboard the International Space Station and helping build the Orion spacecraft for exploration beyond low Earth orbit.