Want to Work on the Red Planet? NASA Accepting Astronaut Applications - NBC Bay Area
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Want to Work on the Red Planet? NASA Accepting Astronaut Applications

NASA hopes to bulk up its force of 47 astronauts ahead of future missions.

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    If you'd like to be an astronaut with NASA, Monday is the day to begin filling out a job application. Scott McGrew reports. (Published Monday, Dec. 14, 2015)

    If you'd like to be an astronaut with NASA, Monday is the day to begin filling out a job application.

    The space agency is accepting applications through mid-February from anyone who wants to put bootprints on the Red Planet, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in November. It's the first time NASA has been seeking job applicants in four years. And instead of looking for sky-bound candidates to fly off to the moon, this time, the space agency wants its new astronauts to discover facts about Mars.

    "It's the greatest job you're ever going to have in your life," physicist and former NASA astronaut Ed Tsang Lu told NBC Bay Area last week. "It's awesome."

    Lu is a veteran of two Space Shuttle missions and a stay on the International Space Station. He now works at the B612 Foundation in Portola Valley, California, which is dedicated to planetary defense against asteroids.

    Boeing and SpaceX hope to launch commercial space flights from Cape Canaveral in 2017, NBC News reported. It will be the first time since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011 that crewed spaceflights will launch from American soil.

    The agency hopes to bulk up its force of 47 astronauts ahead of future missions.

    It's tough to get hired though — NASA said from the thousands of applications received, only a few are chosen for the intensive Astronaut Candidate training program. Including the "Original Seven," only 338 astronauts have been selected to date.

    Candidates must have a bachelor's degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or math, along with three years of related experience or at least 1,000 hours piloting a jet. They must also pass NASA's "long-duration spaceflight physical," according to NBC News. Although there is no age limit, previously selected astronauts have been 34 years old, on average.

    Lu said every good astronaut should be able to fix something that breaks during a long mission to Mars.

    "Pretty much every astronaut has an engineering skill," he said. "And piloting skills as well. But it doesn’t mean you didn’t study political science. You can be an good engineer and pilot and have studied almost anything.”

    Pay starts at $66,000 per year and can go as high as $144,566 with experience.

    More information is available at http://www.nasa.gov/astronauts. Interested candidates can apply online.

    NBC News' James Eng contributed to this report.