Want to be an astronaut? Now's your chance

NASA Scott Kelly

If you've always dreamed of exploring the final frontier, this could be your big chance: applications to become NASA's next astronaut open up in mid-December.

It's been a few years since the space agency last recruited new astronauts, but it has announced that applications will open on December 14 and will run into mid-February next year.

Of course, it's not as simple as just throwing your name into the mix, as NASA does require those interested to have a degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics, and experience in their field – or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in a jet aircraft.

There are currently 47 astronauts in the active Astronaut Corps; however many more will be needed for a new generation of space exploration, what with plans to head to Mars within the next 15 years.

"This is an exciting time to be a part of America's human space flight program," said Brian Kelly, NASA's director of flight operations at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"NASA has taken the next step in the evolution of our nation's human spaceflight program, and our US astronauts will be at the forefront of these new and challenging space flight missions."

A new space age

According to NASA, the new generation of astronauts could end up manning any of four different US-made vessels during their careers: the International Space Station, NASA's Orion deep-space exploration vehicle, which is currently being built, and two commercial spacecraft, Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon.

"This next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realize the goal of putting boot prints on the Red Planet," said Charles Bolden, NASA's Administrator.

"Those selected for this service will fly on U.S.-made spacecraft from American soil, advance critical science and research aboard the International Space Station, and help push the boundaries of technology in the proving ground of deep space."

While applications will run for a handful of months starting mid-Decemeber, candidates won't be announced publicly until mid-2017.

You can find more information here, or check out the recruitment video below.

Image credit: NASA