NASA looking for new astronauts

Posted: November 16, 2011

WASHINGTON - Looking for a job? NASA is hiring astronauts. You can even apply online at a giant government jobs website ().

There's only one hitch: NASA doesn't have its own spaceship anymore and is sending fewer fliers into orbit right now. "The experience is well worth the wait," promised Janet Kavandi, NASA flight crew operations director, as the agency started a public search Tuesday for new astronauts.

There will be flights, but not many, with the shuttle fleet retired. A handful of astronauts each year are launching on Russian Soyuz spaceships to the International Space Station for six-month stays.

In about three to five years, NASA hopes to buy trips for astronauts headed to the station on American-built commercial rockets instead.

With veteran astronauts leaving the space agency, Kavandi said NASA was afraid it would not have enough astronauts, something a National Research Council report pointed out in September.

NASA needs about 55 astronauts, and with a new class of nine graduating earlier this month, the roster is up to 58. One of those new astronauts will get to fly to the station as early as 2013, Kavandi said.

To find candidates, NASA unveiled what its personnel chief called its biggest ever push to hire new astronauts.

Applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or math. They must learn Russian, but be a U.S. citizen. They must know basic physics. Being a medical doctor or a teacher helps. They must have vision that can be corrected to 20/20, no high blood pressure, and be between 5 foot 2 and 6 foot 3 inches tall. The job pays between $64,700 and $141,700.

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