One small step for man, one giant leap for Longhorns everywhere: NASA accepting astronaut applications

Rachel Freeman

Last week, NASA announced they will accept applications for the next class of astronaut candidates from Dec. 14 through mid-February. NASA said they require more astronauts to staff missions to space stations — and eventually Mars.

Engineering professor Wallace Fowler shed some light on the NASA application process from his experiences working in aerospace — he even once applied to join NASA himself.

“People generally stay at NASA for 10 to 15 years before moving to a company, so they need a new fresh group of astronauts to add to the core group,” Fowler said. “A lot of people who have graduated from UT are qualified, but it’s hard. The chances are about one in 1,000 to be selected even if you have qualifications.”

To apply for the few open positions, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree, three years of professional experience, at least 1,000 hours of flight experience, be able to pass a NASA space flight physical and be an American citizen.

Aerospace engineering sophomore Alto Ono, an international student from Japan who does not hold American citizenship, said he is disappointed he will not be able to apply for this incoming class or any other for the foreseeable future.

“It sucks that there is a wall like that,” Ono said. “But I understand that it’s a national security issue, and [there are] ways around that wall, like working with the Japanese space agency instead, since they work closely with NASA. Hopefully I can gain citizenship, but we will see.”

Brian Kelly, director of flight operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said he was happy to hear the news that NASA would be accepting applications and called this an “exciting time.”

“NASA has taken the next step in the evolution of our nation’s human spaceflight program,” Kelly said. “Our U.S. astronauts will be at the forefront of these new and challenging space flight missions. We encourage all qualified applicants to learn more about the opportunities for astronauts at NASA and apply to join our flight operations team.”

The few newly accepted astronauts will have the possibility of working — and even flying in — any of four different U.S. vessels during their careers: the International Space Station, two commercial crew spacecraft currently in development by U.S. companies or NASA’s Orion deep-space exploration vehicle.