NASA Gets Record Number of Astronaut Applications

PHOTO: Astronaut Terry Virts conducts a spacewalk during an orbital sunrise on Feb. 21, 2015.PlayNASA
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More Americans than ever think they have the "right stuff" for space travel.

NASA said today it received 18,300 applications from people interested in joining the space agency's 2017 class of astronauts. That's nearly three times the number of applications NASA received for its most recent class of astronauts in 2012. Not only that, it shattered the previous record of 8,000 in 1978, according to NASA.

While many applied, few will be chosen. An 18-month process will help NASA determine which 8 to 14 people will earn the chance to become an astronaut candidate.

Officially, all applicants need in order to apply is a bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological or physical science, or mathematics, plus just three years of professional experience or 1,000 hours of pilot time.

Candidates will have to to pass the space physical, which restricts would-be astronauts to men and women no taller than 6-feet 4-inches. They'll also go through rigorous training on spacecraft systems, spacewalking, team dynamics and the Russian language, among other skills.

The new class of astronauts, which will be announced in 2017, will be at the forefront in a new era of space exploration. They may travel in Orion, NASA’s deep-space exploration vehicle, or in commercial spacecraft, like SpaceX’s Crew Dragon or Boeing’s Starliner, according to NASA.