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NASA calls for more astronauts for its Artemis programme

The Artemis programme is a stepping stone for NASA’s “next giant leap”: To send astronauts to Mars

United States space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that it will begin to accept applications for astronauts under its Artemis programme from March 2 to March 31, 2020.

“We’re celebrating our 20th year of continuous presence aboard the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit this year,” said NASA chief Jim Bridenstine, adding that it was an “incredible time” to be an astronaut.

With an aim to send the first woman and another man to the moon by 2024, the Artemis programme is a stepping stone for NASA’s “next giant leap”: To send astronauts to Mars.

NASA plans to fill its astronaut corps unit — which currently has 48 astronauts — to “crew spacecraft bound for multiple destinations”, according to a statement released on February 11, 2020. NASA said it has trained around 350 people as astronaut candidates since the 1960s for different space missions.

The space agency also listed several requirements in order to qualify for training under the Artemis programme: one must be a US citizen and have a master’s degree in a STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field from an accredited institution.

STEM fields include engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science, or mathematics, NASA said in the statement.

It also said the requirement for the master’s degree could be met by two years in a PhD programme in a STEM field, completing a test pilot school programme recognised by the US and a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree or a completed doctor of medicine degree.

Candidates must also have completed at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircrafts or have two years of related experience.

Another mandatory requirement is to pass NASA’s long-duration spaceflight physical test.

A two-hour online assessment will be a part of candidates’ application process.

Astronauts, after finishing training, will live aboard the ISS and take part in experiments “that benefit life at home and prepare us for more distant exploration”, according to NASA.

NASA may also use its most powerful rocket — the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft — to launch astronauts to the moon. If used, astronauts will dock the Orion spacecraft at the Lunar Gateway — which is still being developed — before leaving for the moon.

NASA hopes to select its new class of Artemis Generation astronauts in mid-2021 after which it will begin sustainable lunar exploration by 2028 and launch the first humans to Mars in the mid-2030s.

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