Following an extremely competitive application review process that began in December 2015, NASA announced this week the selection of its elite members of the 2017 astronaut class, 12 especially smart and talented people selected from an application pool of more than 18,000 people. According to NASA, this was more than double the number of aspiring spacewalkers who set the agency’s previous record of 8,000 applicants in 1978.
Depending on your outlook on life, this year’s candidates, who will undergo two years of vigorous training, will either leave you feeling completely inspired or woefully inadequate.
As astronaut and NASA Class of 2000 member Michael Barratt said in a video congratulating the new candidates, “You’re gonna be awesome. And you’re gonna fly in space.”
Before that happens, though, candidates must complete a rigorous set of five training criteria.
First, they must master flying a T–38 jet, which can fly up to Mach 1.6 and at altitudes above 40,000 feet, requiring them to “think quickly in dynamic situations.”
Then, they are required to learn to operate and maintain systems aboard the International Space Station.
Next, they must demonstrate the skills to carry out a spacewalk (in a laboratory), which NASA says is “the hardest thing, physically and mentally, that astronauts do.”
Fourth on the list is learning how to operate space robotic systems.
Finally, they must learn to speak Russian, one of two official languages aboard the space station, along with English. That should make for some interesting conversation.
Without further ado, America, here are your new astronauts: