About 12,000 people submitted applications for this year’s group. The new astronaut candidates are being sworn in during a surge in human spaceflight activity, with wealthy tourists and private astronauts more frequently launching to space aboard both government and privately owned spacecraft.
On Wednesday, Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire, and a film producer will launch on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station as tourists for 12 days. And a day later, Blue Origin, the space company owned by Jeff Bezos, will send six passengers, including Michael Strahan, the TV host and former New York Giants defensive end, on a brief jaunt to the edge of space.
After Monday’s ceremony, the astronauts will begin two years of astronaut training at the Johnson Space Center, where they’ll learn to conduct spacewalks outside of the space station as well as the ins and outs of new commercial spacecraft, among hundreds of other tasks expected of government astronauts. After graduating from training, they could get assignments to spend months on the space station or walk on the moon under NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to conduct its first crewed moon landing in 2025.
The astronauts were picked according to a set of rigorous requirements that includes a master’s degree in a STEM field, an accredited test-pilot school program, or two years of academic work toward a doctoral program related to an astronaut’s duties.
Other space agencies are changing their application requirements to tap into a broader pool of potential astronauts. Japan’s space agency, JAXA, announced in November that it would recruit its first group of seven astronauts in 13 years. The agency dropped its requirement that applicants have a four-year university degree in the field of natural science, according to NHK, Japan’s state-owned broadcasting network. The European Space Agency also began its next round of astronaut recruitment in February. In its announcement, it said it aimed to diversify its pool of candidates to include more women as well as people with disabilities.
NASA’s last astronaut class was inducted in 2017. Two of its members, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, are currently in space aboard the International Space Station. They and other members of that class, the 22nd, could also be eligible for trips to the moon.