Over 6,000 individuals have applied for joining NASA’s astronaut corps, which is twice as many as the U.S. space agency typically receives, NASA said in a statement on Sunday.
Late last year, NASA announced a selection procedure for 15 individuals to join the 21st astronaut class.
“This is a great time to join the NASA family,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at the start of the selection process, adding that NASA newest astronauts could go aboard the first commercial rockets to the space.
The number of applicants surpassed all expectations, with NASA receiving 6,372 applications, the largest number since 1978 which had more than 8,000 submissions.
NASA’s Astronaut Selection Office will sort through the applications to compare them to a list of basic qualifications. The applications that meet these qualifications will then be reviewed by a selection committee to identify “highly qualified” applicants. The panel will then determine which remaining applicants will be invited for an interview and medical evaluations.
The Astronaut Selection Board is to make its final decision in the spring of 2013 with the new astronauts candidates reporting for training that summer. The new candidates will undergo two years of training before being eligible for mission assignments, the statement said.