Nasa wants a few good recruits for its elite astronaut corps. A background in math or science is essential. Test piloting is a plus. And, as the application warns, "Frequent travel may be required." Just not any time soon.
NASA has begun a nine-month search to find 10 to 15 astronauts to start training in 2009. But there are now 91 astronauts competing for seats on the remaining dozen or so scheduled shuttle flights through 2010.
And given that the first mission of the agency's next-generation manned spacecraft isn't scheduled until 2015, that means this rookie class has almost no chance of flying any time soon. "If I'm a person of the caliber that NASA wants, I have to ask myself: 'Why would I go apply if I'm going to sit on my butt for six years or more to do something once?'" said Roger Handberg, an expert on space policy at the University of Central Florida.
NASA insists there should be plenty of work for the new recruits, initially aboard the international space station. Plans are for Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry
And the next generation will lay the groundwork for NASA's plans to shoot for the moon. The schedule calls for the first test of a new Ares rocket in 2009 and the first manned launch of the Orion spacecraft in 2015.
If all goes well, the first moon launch will go up around 2020, with plans to build a permanent base there. Eventually, NASA wants to move on to Mars.
Kemo D. (a.k.a. no.7) www.beyondgenes.com