Air Force offers 111 airmen for NASA astronaut duty

Air Force a big part of 2012 NASA Astronaut Candidate Program

nasa orion
In a classic case of many being called but few actually chosen, the Air Force today said nominated 111 airmen to become NASA astronauts. 

Candidates selected for the 2012 NASA Astronaut Candidate Program will be assigned to the  to the Johnson Space Center astronaut office for a one-year candidacy program. They will enter the basic astronaut training program, contributing to the development of new NASA launch vehicles and spacecraft, while participating in planning for future human exploration operations. Upon successful completion of the one-year training and evaluation period, Airman astronauts will have a five-year tour of duty with NASA, the Air Force said.

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"Just to be eligible for consideration, members must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited higher institution in engineering, mathematics, biological science, or physical science. The quality of academic preparation is critical," he said. "Astronaut candidates are challenged intellectually and physically, so only the most qualified will make the cut." Said the Air Force's Howard Peterson, in a statement. 

Each candidate must have at least three years of post-graduate completion of progressively responsible, professional experience or a minimum of 1,000 hours as pilot-in-command of a jet aircraft. Finalists will be identified in December, and those selected will begin the program in August 2013, he stated.

According to NASA most astronaut classes are composed of 8-15 people from the services and private sector. According to NASA salaries for civilian Astronaut Candidates are based upon the Federal Government's General Schedule pay scale for grades GS-11 through GS-14. The grade is determined in accordance with each individual's academic achievements and experience. Currently a GS-11 starts at $64,724 per year and a GS-14 can earn up to $141,715 per year.

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The bigger question is what missions will this group of astronauts get to fly and when as budgetary problems increasingly diminish NASA's chances of manned space flight opportunities.  On NASA's web site, the agency says astronauts of the 21st century will continue to work aboard the International Space Station in cooperation with our international partners; help to build and fly a new NASA vehicle, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle designed for human deep space exploration; and further NASA's efforts to partner with industry to provide a commercial capability for space transportation to the space station.

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