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For Americans looking to reach the stars, there’s only one possible career that leads there: astronaut. On June 7, 2017, NASA revealed a new class of astronaut candidates, picked from a record-breaking 18,353 applications. In the 56 years of human spaceflight, only 338 other men and women have earned the rank of astronaut at NASA. So, how were these few selected?
The answer isn’t quite black-and-white—the process has changed drastically from the start of the space program to today. In fact, many of today’s astronauts would have been eliminated from consideration had they applied in 1959, when the first search commenced.
“I couldn’t have been an astronaut way back in the early days,” says former NASA astronaut Dr. Michael Massimino, who flew on two shuttle missions in the 2000s. Massimino is an engineering specialist who has twice repaired the Hubble Space Telescope, and became the first person to use Twitter in space on the daring final service mission, in 2009.
But Massimino’s engineering background would not have helped him half a century earlier: the original recruits all had to be military pilots who had flown at least 1,500 hours. Additionally, he would have been ruled out on the basis of height. “I’m 6 foot 3 inches tall,” he says. At the time, astronauts could be no more than 5 feet 11 inches tall, as the capsules could not fit taller men.
The rationale for choosing military test pilots for the astronaut program came from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who reasoned that pilots were used to flying new, powerful technology. The records of 508 experienced pilots were screened in early 1959 by NASA’s Space Task Group (STG) for several criteria: The candidates must be under 40 years old, have graduated from test pilot school, be in top physical health, be qualified to fly jets and have a bachelor’s degree. This resulted in a pool of 108 men from the Air Force, Marines and Navy.
Sixty-nine arbitrarily selected men from this initial pool were invited to Washington, D.C., to undergo a series of interviews and briefings by the STG. Though the STG expected many candidates to back down once they learned of the mission, few did. Those who went forward with the process underwent a series of examinations—written, psychological, medical and others—of which 32 men passed and accepted astronaut candidacy.
At the 2017 International Space Development Conference, General Thomas P. Stafford, a former Air Force test pilot who became an astronaut in 1962, was asked why he pursued such a risky career. “I always wanted to go higher and faster,” he said. “People always ask ‘Were you scared?’ And the answer is no.”
The 32 men who had been chosen as astronauts were sent to the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico for even more thorough medical testing. Those who passed this round were then sent to Aeromedical Laboratory of the Wright Air Development Center in Dayton, Ohio, for a set of rigorous examinations designed to test the candidate’s physiological and psychological responses to situations expected in spaceflight. Following these tests, 18 men were recommended, and the STG narrowed it down to a final seven: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, John Glenn, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Donald “Deke” Slayton.
Just six of these men would be successfully sent into space at that time. Slayton developed an irregular heart rhythm, grounding him until a 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission. Soon, the U.S. set its sights on a new target—the moon—and NASA needed more astronauts. The agency put out an open call for applications, looking for generally similar criteria with a few tweaks: The height restriction was raised to 6 feet tall; the required hours of flight time was lowered to 1,000; the education requirement mandated a degree in physical science, biological science or engineering; the maximum age was lowered to 35; and, perhaps most importantly, civilian pilots—including women—were allowed to apply. Of approximately 250 applications, nine men, including Neil Armstrong, were selected to become part of Astronaut Group 2 in 1962.
During the 1960s, NASA put out new calls for astronauts every one to two years, changing the selection criteria. For Astronaut Group 3, NASA removed the test pilot requirement, replacing it with fighter jet pilot experience. For Astronaut Groups 4 and 6, the administration sought out scientists rather than pilots—applicants were required to have an M.D. or a Ph.D. in natural sciences or engineering. The last group of this era was Astronaut Group 7, selected in 1969—the year NASA succeeded in landing men on the moon. In all, 77 men became astronauts during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions.
After the Apollo program ended in 1972, there was a decade-long pause in spaceflight as NASA developed the space shuttle. Astronaut Group 8 was recruited in 1978, just before the launch of the first shuttle in 1981. This was NASA’s largest class to date, with 35 astronauts (besting Group 5’s 19), including the first American woman in space, Sally Ride; the first African American in space, Guion Bluford; and the first Asian American in space, Ellison Onizuka, who perished in the Challenger disaster.
“For the shuttle there were two paths—there were the pilots and the mission specialists,” explains Massimino. “The pilots were people with test pilot experience, and the mission specialists were a grab bag—mostly scientists and engineers. The job then was not just a flying job like it was back in the early days. It was also a job that involved doing scientific experiments.”
With the discontinuation of the shuttle program in 2011, there’s currently less of a need to differentiate between pilots and mission specialists. But, notes Massimino, “I don’t see how we could stop taking military test pilots—I think it’s a really important background to have. The skills they have and the knowledge they have is really vital. But I think it’s also the same for the scientists and engineers.” Plus, with the development of new commercial crew vehicles, there will soon be a direct demand for pilots once again.
Since the shuttle era, the NASA astronaut selection process has remained largely the same. Applications for new classes open approximately every two to four years, and while there’s no longer an age maximum, the educational and professional requirements include a bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics, as well as three years of related professional experience (advanced degrees count towards this criterion) or a minimum of 1,000 hours piloting a jet. Astronaut candidates must also be U.S. citizens, though NASA does train astronauts from other countries who are accepted into their own space programs, like the Canadian Space Agency or the European Space Agency, on separate terms.
NASA still has physical requirements for astronauts. Vision must be correctable to 20/20 in each eye (glasses and corrective surgery are permitted), blood pressure must be at or below 140/90 in a sitting position, and height must be between 62 and 75 inches.
From the time applications are accepted, it takes approximately two years to select the new class of astronauts—once applications are reviewed (often by current astronauts), qualified applicants undergo reference checks and several rounds of interviews and medical exams at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Finalists earn the rank of astronaut candidate (or “ASCAN”), which they will retain for approximately two years during training. If the ASCAN passes training (which includes everything from SCUBA certification to perform underwater spacewalk simulations to learning how to pilot a T-38 aircraft), he or she will officially earn the rank of astronaut.
Despite their varied backgrounds, NASA astronauts share core traits, says Massimino. “The thing that unifies us is a common purpose of exploring space, of doing something that’s important for the world, finding out answers to who we are, where we came from, and how space can benefit our country and our world.”
Would John Glenn make the cut today?
Yesterday was the Fiftieth Anniversary of John Glenn’s 1962 orbital flight. Glenn was one of seven original astronauts recruited by NASA starting in 1959. It is one of the great recruiting stories of all time.
The work was dangerous. In the years leading up to the recruiting process, US rockets had shown a dismaying tendency to blow up. Not only that, scientists were not sure what effect space travel would have on the human body.
The requirements were strict. Astronauts had to be less than six feet tall because of the size of the space capsules, and weigh 180 pounds, tops. They needed to be “superb physical specimens,” test pilots, under age 40, and with a college degree.
Despite that, the program drew more than five hundred applications. At the end of the process, seven “original astronauts” were selected. John Glenn was one of them.
Glenn had superb pilot credentials. He flew over a hundred combat missions and served as a test pilot, where he made the first transcontinental jet flight. But he was also the one who was different.
He was the only Marine. Among the hard drinking, fast driving test pilot crowd, Glenn was the straight arrow. Glenn competed on the TV game show, “Name that Tune” where he and child star Eddie Hodges split their $25,000 prize. He was also the only astronaut without a college degree.
Glenn was the oldest astronaut. In fact he became the oldest human in space twice. The first time was at age 40 in 1962. The second was when he returned to space in 1998 at age 77.
Would John Glenn have made the cut today? Or would an automated program ignore his pilot record and eliminate him for want of a degree? Would someone decide that “you know he could be over the maximum age when we send him up” and eliminate him for that reason? Or would someone else decide that he didn’t fit the “fighter pilot culture” and therefore he would create problems?
The talent gems are often the ones who don’t quite fit the specs. The more we rely on strict specifications and automated screening, the less likely we are to find the John Glenns.
NASA Astronaut Jeanette Epps To Make History With 2021 Boeing Space Mission
NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps will make history next year when she becomes the first Black woman to live aboard the International Space Station for an extended period of time.
The agency made the announcement last week, saying Epps has been assigned to NASA&rsquos Boeing Starliner-1 mission.
Epps will join astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada during the six-month expedition, leading the first operational flight of Boeing&rsquos CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the ISS, NASA announced.
NEWS: We assigned @Astro_Jeanette to NASA&rsquos Boeing Starliner-1 mission, the first operational @BoeingSpace mission with @Astro_Josh and @Astro_Suni. Jeanette is a fantastic addition to the Starliner-1 team as we continue to #LaunchAmerica: https://t.co/2BzBhEJcBx pic.twitter.com/Ohq1lSB7eH&mdash Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) August 25, 2020
&ldquoJeanette Epps is the natural addition to NASA&rsquos Boeing Starliner-1 mission,&rdquo Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA headquarters, told CNBC. &ldquoShe fully complements the other members of the first Boeing full duration crewed mission.&rdquo
Epps expressed her excitement about working on the 2021 mission with her fellow astronauts.
"They are both wonderful people to work with, so I'm looking forward to the mission," she said in a video on Twitter.
According to NASA, Epps received her bachelor&rsquos degree in physics from LeMoyne College in Syracuse and obtained her master&rsquos degree in science from the University of Maryland, College Park. She also earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2000 from the same institution.
The astronaut worked as a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project fellow while earning her doctorate. She then worked in a research laboratory and co-authored several patents before joining the Central Intelligence Agency, where she spent seven years.
According to USA Today, Epps was scheduled to fly on the Russian Soyuz rocket to the ISS two years ago. However, she lost the opportunity when NASA replaced her with another astronaut.
"It felt like a huge amount of responsibility. There have been three African Americans who have visited ISS, but they haven&rsquot done the long-duration mission that I am undertaking," Epps told The Cut in 2017 before she was pulled from the mission. "As a steward, I want to do well with this honor. I want to make sure that young people know that this didn&rsquot happen overnight."
The astronaut's brother, Henry Epps, accused NASA for racism after seeing his sister being replaced, CNBC reported. The agency denounced the accusation.
According to the Verge, NASA said there were multiple "factors" which led to the reversal of course.
"A number of factors are considered when making flight assignments,&rdquo Brandi Dean, a spokesperson for NASA, said. &ldquoThese decisions are personnel matters for which NASA doesn&rsquot provide information.&rdquo
Fast forward to today, not only will Epps be making history, fellow astronaut Victor Glover is also set to mark a monumental moment. Glover will become the first Black man to visit space for an extended time when he joins a six-month ISS mission later this year.
Six other Black Americans have visited the space station, but Epps and Glover will become the first to embark on an extended mission, according to NASA. Epps, who became a member of the 2009 astronaut class, will be making her first spaceflight when the mission launches sometime next year.
NASA said it's working to "understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflight."
"As commercial companies focus on providing human transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, NASA will concentrate its focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep-space missions," the agency stated.
&ldquoThe Best All-Around Group&rdquo: NASA&rsquos Astronauts of &lsquo62
The members of the ‘New Nine’ in comical pose surrounding a model of the Gemini spacecraft. Clockwise from top right are Frank Borman, John Young, Tom Stafford, Pete Conrad, Jim McDivitt, Jim Lovell, Elliot See, Ed White and Neil Armstrong. Two-thirds of them would journey to lunar orbit and one-third of them would leave their footprints on the Moon itself. Photo Credit: NASA
Fifty years ago, Project Mercury – the United States’ effort to place a man into orbit around Earth – had accomplished its primary objective and was winding down towards its conclusion. At the same time, two successor groups of missions, Gemini and Apollo, were gearing up to deliver on President John Kennedy’s pledge of American boots on the Moon before the end of the 1960s. With a crew of two aboard each of the ten scheduled Gemini flights and crews of three aboard each Apollo mission, the paltry ‘Original Seven’ astronauts selected by NASA in April 1959 would be woefully insufficient to support the needs of the grandest endeavour in science and engineering in history. Fifty years ago, this month, nine new men – the ‘New Nine’ – were selected in anticipation of a massive increase in spaceflight opportunities. Their names are a veritable who’s who of the most famous names in early space exploration and they were described by Deke Slayton, their boss and mentor, as perhaps the finest all-round astronaut class ever selected.
Their selection was one of the primary goals of Deke Slayton, an unflown member of the Mercury Seven. Since the summer of 1962, he had served as NASA’s co-ordinator of astronaut activities and would later become head of Flight Crew Operations, determining not only the selection of new candidates, but also the fundamental make-up of each spacegoing crew. Since the Gemini spacecraft would be bigger than Mercury, Slayton devised his own set of selection criteria for the next group of astronauts, increasing the height limit and changing the age restriction. “One thing that got tougher,” he wrote in his autobiography, Deke, “was that we dropped the maximum age from 40 to 35. In Mercury, we were looking at a programme that would conclude in three years. We knew that Apollo would be going until 1970 at the very least.” Moreover, Slayton insisted on receiving letters of recommendation from each candidate’s last employer.
In April 1962, a formal announcement of NASA’s intent to select astronauts was issued and 253 applications were received by the closing date of 1 June. (A week later, a late application from an outstanding civilian test pilot named Neil Alden Armstrong arrived and was quietly slipped into the pile.) A series of gruelling medical tests at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, winnowed the names down to 33 finalists, who were interviewed by Slayton, Al Shepard and NASA test pilot Warren North at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) in Houston. In Deke, Slayton wrote that he could have turned to the finalists from the Mercury Seven selection – which included Jim Lovell and Charles ‘Pete’ Conrad – to make his choices, but did not do so. Years later, he expressed gladness over his decision. “That second group,” he explained, “is probably the best all-around group ever put together.”
Ed White performs America’s first EVA outside Gemini 4 in June 1965. Photo Credit: NASA
By September 1962, nine men were settled upon for selection into the world’s most elite flying fraternity and on the 17th they assembled in Houston for their first press conference at Ellington Air Force Base. In response to complaints from some journalists over the exclusive rights of Life magazine over the Mercury Seven’s personal stories, NASA had already issued a news release on the 16th to assure “equal access by all news media” and revealed that “specific guidelines were spelled out covering the sale by the astronauts of stories of their personal experiences…[with] sharp prohibitions against such stories containing…official information concerning the astronauts’ training or flight activities not previously available to the public”. Future missions, the release added, would benefit from a post-flight press conference, in which all accredited members of the media would have the opportunity to question the astronauts in depth. Privately, and in response to the business deals made by several of the Mercury Seven with the proceeds from their lucrative Life contracts, Slayton told the new astronauts that, with regard to gratuities, they should follow the old test pilot’s creed: “Anything you can eat, drink or screw within 24 hours is perfectly acceptable!”
Many of the new astronauts – who came to be known as ‘the New Nine’ – were, however, far more interested in which of them would be first to walk on the Moon. As circumstances transpired, a third of their number would do just that, whilst two-thirds of them would reach lunar orbit. Neil Armstrong would be first to tread the Moon’s dusty surface, Frank Borman would command the first expedition to lunar orbit, Pete Conrad would save America’s first space station, Jim Lovell would lead the dramatic Apollo 13 mission, Jim McDivitt and Tom Stafford would clear key hurdles on the road to meeting Kennedy’s deadline, Ed White would perform America’s first EVA, John Young would fly Gemini, Apollo and the Shuttle…and poor Elliot See would lose his chance in a fatal jet crash.
The New Nine included four Air Force officers (Borman, McDivitt, Stafford and White), three naval aviators (Conrad, Lovell and Young) and two civilians (Armstrong and See). At least two of them almost made the cut for Project Mercury, but Lovell was dropped following the detection of a minor liver ailment, whilst Conrad – according to Deke Slayton – had shown “a little too much independence when it came to some of the medical tests”. (On one of these, Conrad had been shown a Rorschach card and asked what he could see. Convinced that the psychologists were looking for evidence of male virility, he made sure that he saw a vagina in each card…) Of the others, John Young was still at Naval Test Pilot School at the time of the Mercury selection, whilst Tom Stafford had been an inch too tall for admission.
Tom Stafford pats an enormous stuffed Snoopy as he leads his crew out of the Operations & Checkout Building at Cape Kennedy for the Apollo 10 launch on 18 May 1969. Stafford would fly into space four times and would serve as Chief Astronaut for two years. He has also proven a vocal supporter and active participant in the charting of future space exploration ever since. Photo Credit: NASA
One of the New Nine’s first activities was to travel to Cape Canaveral and witness the launch of Wally Schirra and Sigma 7 on 3 October 1962. They were pounced upon by the media, who knew that one of them would most likely be the first to set foot on the lunar surface, and were frequently forced onto the circuit of cocktail parties, signed many autographs and met countless officials and dignitaries. In January 1963, under the tutelage of planetary scientist Gene Shoemaker, they visited a meteor crater outside Flagstaff, Arizona, observed the Moon and examined lava flows.
After the completion of their basic science training, the New Nine was integrated with the Mercury Seven to form a 16-man unit, which, in June 1963, spent a week at the Caribbean Air Command Tropic Survival School at Albrook Air Force Base in the Panama Canal Zone. In addition to jungle-survival training, they focused on the identification and toxicity of tropical plants, their methods of preparation, local fauna and even interaction with indigenous people, all of which could someday prove essential in the event of an unhappy landing from a space mission. Three months later, at the Naval School of Pre-Flight at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, they underwent water-survival training, including underwater egress, escaping from a dragging parachute, boarding a life raft and learning flotation techniques in a Gemini space suit.
The Nine also received their own technical assignments: Borman monitoring the development of the Titan II rocket, McDivitt handling spacecraft guidance and control, Young overseeing the Gemini pressure suits, Armstrong the simulators, Conrad the cockpit displays, See the electrical systems, White the flight controls, Stafford the range safety and communications and Lovell the re-entry and recovery techniques. Deke Slayton assigned veteran astronaut Gus Grissom, already working on Gemini, to supervise their work. “They’re all talented,” Grissom admitted. “In fact, when one of them comes up with an answer for some problem, I think they are a lot smarter than our original group of seven.”
Additionally, the Nine kept up their flying proficiency in high-performance aircraft, thanks to NASA’s fleet of T-33s and F-102s, although plans were in the pipeline to upgrade to either the Air Force’s T-38 or the Navy’s F-4. Despite the objections of some in the corps, who felt the Mach 2-capable F-4 was the better choice and a ‘hotter’ jet, its complexity and expense of maintenance ultimately led NASA to opt for the T-38. It is a training aircraft still used by astronauts today.
Nine equal astronaut candidates were selected in September 1962, but as Deke Slayton admitted in his autobiography, “some are more equal than others”. Certainly, when the time came to select members of the new class to fly missions, Slayton knew which ones carried the greatest potential to deliver. The first four Gemini missions would be essential in demonstrating the new spacecraft’s capabilities (Gemini 3), flying a record-breaking seven days (Gemini 4), flying a rendezvous (Gemini 5) and pushing the envelope with a full-lunar-duration mission (Gemini 6). In his internal planning, Slayton assigned Al Shepard and Tom Stafford to Gemini 3, Jim McDivitt and Ed White to Gemini 4, Wally Schirra and John Young to Gemini 5 and Gus Grissom and Frank Borman to Gemini 6.
John Young (left), seen here with Gus Grissom during training as the Gemini 6 backup crew, was the first member of the New Nine to reach space. He also went on to reach it far more often than any of his contemporaries, flying six missions between 1965 and 1983. Photo Credit: NASA
Circumstances changed almost immediately. The Agena target vehicle, needed for the rendezvous mission, would not be ready in time for Gemini 5 and was pushed back to Gemini 6. In response to this change, Schirra and Young were jostled into position as the new Gemini 3 backups and their places on Gemini 5 were taken instead by Grissom and Borman. However, interpersonal relationships had an important part to play. In his biography of Grissom, Ray Boomhower cited fellow astronaut Gene Cernan as once commenting that the egos of Grissom and Borman were too large to fit the same flight – both men were strong-headed leaders – and in the end they were separated. In his NASA oral history, Borman acquiesced that he “went over to [Grissom’s] house to talk to him about it…and after that I was scrubbed from the flight”.
Fate had its own card to play when Al Shepard was struck down by an inner-ear disease and in April 1964 he was replaced by Gus Grissom. Deke Slayton considered John Young to be a better personality fit with Grissom and named him as Gemini 3’s new pilot, replacing Tom Stafford. Of course, Slayton had nothing against Stafford and revealed in his autobiography that “Tom was probably our strongest guy in rendezvous” and this prompted him to move the astronaut to the pilot’s seat on Gemini 6, now scheduled to fly the first rendezvous with the Agena. Aboard Gemini 6, Stafford would be joined by command pilot Wally Schirra, who had expressed no interest in flying a long-duration mission and for whom a complex rendezvous flight seemed more suitable.
As for Borman, he received his own command. Paired with Jim Lovell, the men firstly backed-up McDivitt and White on Gemini 4 and would then be recycled as the prime crew of Gemini 7, which would attempt the 14-day record duration. With the departure of Grissom and Borman from consideration for Gemini 5, Slayton assigned Gordon Cooper – who had flown America’s then-longest space mission in May 1963 – and Pete Conrad, with Neil Armstrong and Elliot See as their backups. In the absence of an Agena, Gemini 5 evolved into an endurance mission, lasting up to eight days. Judging from the arrangement of crews during this period, several astronauts were earmarked for command from an early stage and to this day McDivitt, Borman and Armstrong represent three of only five Americans in history to have commanded their very first orbital space missions. Yet all nine of them would become intimately involved in the most pivotal era of exploration and scientific discovery in human history.
Tomorrow’s article will briefly summarise the careers of each of the New Nine.
NASA makes history with largest class of female astronauts
HOUSTON – For the first time in NASA's 60-year history of space exploration, the latest class of astronauts includes four women.
But if you ask them, it's not a big deal.
"Nobody really notices it within our class or within NASA. You just see it as eight people that are working together in a class," Marine Corps Maj. and astronaut candidate Nicole Mann told KPRC Channel 2. "We were fortunate enough to grow up in an era where we don't feel that restriction like we did in generations past, and it's those women that blazed the trail for us."
She's describing women such as Sally Ride, Judith Resnik and Mae Jemison.
"We've really come a long way where gender doesn't matter as much anymore. It's more on skill," Mann said.
Mann graduated from the Naval Academy and has a master's degree from Stanford. She flew fighter jets in the military and was the first female pilot in her squadron.
Now her training includes underwater spacewalks to simulate zero gravity.
"It's awesome. It's crazy and it's awesome," she said.
Training also includes culture and language classes that will prepare her to work with Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station.
"I have Russian class after this, then I have a class on ISS systems, then I'm going to go flying again," she said.
Mann made the cut from nearly 6,300 applicants. Today, she works at the Johnson Space Center alongside classmate Army Maj. Ann McClain.
"I wanted to be an astronaut from the time I was 3, 4 years old. Being somewhere that nobody else has ever been has always fascinated me," McClain said in a NASA video.
A trip to Florida as a child got Christina Hammock hooked on NASA.
"We spent a day at Kennedy Space Center, and from that point on, I was just completely enamored by the idea of exploring space," Hammock said in her NASA interview.
Dr. Jessica Meir is living a dream that she's had since age 5.
"My first distinct memory of it was in first grade. We were asked to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up, and I remember drawing an astronaut standing on the moon," she said in a NASA video.
All four women, along with their four male classmates, represent the future of human space flight.
"The most exciting thing to me is to be part of a global effort. Exploring what is out there, answering some of these fundamental questions that we don't know," Mann told KPRC Channel 2.
There will be many generations of astronauts to come. Mann said STEM-based classes focusing on science, technology, engineering and math help lay the foundation for careers at NASA. She encourages young women to dream big, just like she did.
"If for some reason if they're feeling limited or they just don't realize what their potential could be, then it's important that they know there are endless opportunities for them and that they should never limit themselves," she said.
NASA Is Seeking Astronauts. Do You Have The Right Stuff?
When you look at every group photo of NASA astronauts going back to 1959, some patterns emerge. How will 2016 be different?
NPR Skunk Bear YouTube
On Monday, NASA started accepting applications for its new class of astronauts. Applying is simple: Just log in to USAjobs.gov, search for "astronaut," and upload your resume and references. The job description says "Frequent travel may be required."
It's a bit more difficult to be picked. In 2013, more than 6,000 people applied to the program. Only eight were selected. That's an acceptance rate of less than 1 percent.
To be an astronaut, you need a degree in a scientific field, vision correctable to 20/20, and you've got to stand between 4 feet, 8.5 inches tall and 6 foot 4. (History suggests it also helps to be white and a man, but NASA says it's trying hard to remedy that.)
Still, there are many possible paths to space. For former astronaut Charlie Bolden, that journey started in middle school.
"I fell in love with a place called the United States Naval Academy in seventh grade when I saw a program on television called Men of Annapolis," Bolden says.
The men portrayed in the program reminded him of his father and uncles, who had served in WWII. He resolved to attend the academy once he graduated from high school. But there was a problem.
Charles Bolden, NASA's current chief administrator, before his first shuttle flight in 1986. NASA hide caption
Charles Bolden, NASA's current chief administrator, before his first shuttle flight in 1986.
"I grew up in the segregated South," Bolden says.
The South Carolina congressional delegation refused to give Bolden the required nomination to the school. An Illinois congressman, instead, opened the way to the Naval Academy, and Bolden began his military career. He flew in Vietnam, became a test pilot, and was selected to become an astronaut in 1980. It was the beginning of the space shuttle era.
For Mike Massimino, another former astronaut, it all started with Apollo 11 in the summer of 1969.
"I was 6 years old when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon," Massimino says. "And I wanted to be an astronaut — dressed up like an astronaut for Halloween, played astronaut in my backyard with my little astronaut, Snoopy."
But as he grew up, in Franklin Square, N.Y., that dream started to seem "ridiculous," Massimino says. "I didn't know anybody that was an astronaut."
So he went to school to become an engineer. After picking up a degree from Columbia University and four more from MIT, Massimino was accepted to the astronaut corps in 1996.
Maria Banks, a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, is planning to apply to the astronaut corps this year. In college, she studied harp performance, and when she graduated she found a job playing on a cruise ship that traveled all over the world.
"I would take soil samples and rock samples and hide them in my suitcase," Banks says. "I don't know why I just had to do it. Every day I would try to find the most geologically interesting thing I could do — climb a volcano, or hike a desert, hike on glaciers."
That sent her back to school, where she started a Ph.D. program in geology and planetary science. Among other things, she studied the fingerprints of glaciers on Mars, using data and images from NASA missions.
These three people — a pilot, an engineer, a planetary geologist — came from different backgrounds and different eras, but they all felt the same way about applying.
"I was convinced that I did not stand any chance," Bolden says.
Mike Massimino, pictured here in 2002, was selected for the astronaut corps after applying four times. NASA hide caption
Mike Massimino, pictured here in 2002, was selected for the astronaut corps after applying four times.
"I thought there was no way they were going to pick me," Massimino says.
"I guess I didn't believe it was . an attainable goal," Banks says.
Though the technological side of the application has changed a bit over the years (Bolden wrote his application on a sheet of paper Banks will visit the USAjobs website), the selection process has remained virtually identical. Current astronauts and NASA officials sift through the applications — eliminating the obviously unqualified and making piles, based on profession. Physicists are compared with other physicists. Pilots with other pilots. The cream of the crop (100 or so) will be invited to Houston for live interviews and medical screening. Then a small number will be selected to begin about two years of intense astronaut training.
"If you're not tops at what you're doing now," Bolden says, "you're not going to be selected."
Bolden was tops. He went on to pilot two shuttle missions and commanded two more. He helped put the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit. In 2009, President Obama appointed him the head of NASA.
It took Massimino a few more tries to get accepted. He first applied in 1989, then again in 1991 and was rejected. In 1994, he made it to the interview round.
"My attitude was just to be myself," Massimino says. "When you're trying to realize a life's dream, you want to speak from the heart."
Finally, in 1996, NASA selected him. He flew on two shuttle missions and helped repair the Hubble. He became the first person to tweet from space. Today he's a professor at Columbia.
She was pregnant when NASA offered to send her to space. Anna Fisher didn’t hesitate.
The moment Anna Lee Fisher had been waiting for came on a hot summer afternoon in 1983. Five years had passed since Fisher and five other women were chosen to become America’s first female astronauts. But she hadn’t yet been to space.
Her boss asked to see her in his office. He requested that her husband, who was also in the astronaut training program, come along, too. They sat down at his desk together.
“I’m thinking,” her boss said, “of sending Anna.”
This was what Fisher, then 33 years old, had wanted. There was only one little thing to consider — and it was currently growing inside her. On the day she was asked to climb into a shuttle and be blasted into the solar system, Fisher was eight and a half months pregnant.
“I wasn’t about to say no,” she said last month in an interview with The Washington Post. “You don’t say no to that offer.”
And that was how Anna Fisher became the world’s first mother to go to space. A few weeks after being chosen for a flight, Fisher gave birth to a daughter, Kristin.
She will soon mark the 35th anniversary of her flight, the day she became an inspirational figure to working moms everywhere — including to her daughter. Kristin is now a D.C.-based correspondent for Fox News and the mother of a 16-month old girl.
“I always grew up thinking I could have a demanding full-time job and be a mom,” Kristin said. “The example that she set for me, it was never a question. It wasn’t until I got pregnant and started thinking about the logistics that I started thinking, ‘How did she do this?’ ”
The answer is something Anna Fisher had to figure out fast. She gave birth to Kristin on a Friday. By Monday, she was back at NASA, carrying the doughnut-shaped pillow that would make it possible to sit down for the team meeting.
She wanted to send a message to her male co-workers and bosses: She might have had a baby, but she was still on the job.
“It was worth it just to see the looks on their faces,” she recalled.
Fisher had always planned to have a family and even told the selection committee for the astronaut training program of that plan during her interview. She and her husband, Bill, were emergency room doctors in California in 1977 when they applied to NASA’s open call for potential astronauts. Bill wouldn’t get in for another two years. But Fisher, at 28 years old, made the cut and moved to Houston.
There were six women in the class of 35 new astronauts — all of whom were determined to ensure their male colleagues treated them as equally qualified. Sally Ride, who would become the first American woman in space, went shopping with Fisher for baggy khaki pants so they would be wearing outfits similar to NASA’s men. Fisher never wore makeup at work. She attended the astronauts’ spouses’ club, so that her colleagues’ wives wouldn’t feel uneasy about a woman working so closely with them.
For 14 months before her flight, Fisher juggled her training and NASA obligations with caring for her new daughter. She and Bill asked her mom for help and hired a nanny. She started pointing out to reporters that the men on her flight were leaving their children behind, too.
At work, she learned how to serve as “Capcom,” the person in mission control who communicates with the astronauts already in orbit. It was an important role, requiring long, intense shifts — one her commander suggested she might want to give up. “You’ve got Kristin, you’re training, it’s too much,” he said.
It’s not too late to be an astronaut.
NASA doesn’t have an age limit for this gig, and the basic requirements aren’t as onerous as you might think. The odds of scoring one of those coveted seats to the stars, however, are getting long.
The U.S. space agency named 12 new astronauts Wednesday𠅊 hyper-elite squad winnowed from 18,300 applicants. That’s right, in every 100 CVs, Uncle Sam finds .07 astronauts.
There have been about 350 professional star voyagers in the nation’s history. Some 56 of them are active or in training and 22 are “management astronauts” no longer eligible for a space flight. About 60 are deceased. Given the numbers, a more realistic career goal might be playing quarterback in the NFL or running a Fortune 500 company. The pay for both of those paths would be far better, to boot.
That said, the requirements for your latest job were likely tougher than NASA’s most recent 𠇊stronaut” classified listing. One no longer has to be a test pilot or a rocket scientist. Donald Trump and Mark Zuckerberg probably wouldn’t make the cut (not enough schooling), but virtually every high school science and math teacher does, as well as physicians and professional pilots.
“Some people would be surprised to learn they might have what it takes,” NASA Flight Director Brian Kelly said in soliciting the current crop of candidates. “We want and need a diverse mix of individuals to ensure we have the best astronaut corps possible.”
Getting in the door requires four things:
- U.S. citizenship.
- A Bachelor’s degree in engineering, science or math.
- The ability to pass a NASA physical (20/20 vision is a must but glasses and corrective surgery are accepted).
- 1,000 hours flying a jet or three years of “related, progressively responsible, professional experience” (graduate school and teaching both qualify).
After NASA tosses the applicants who don’t meet thoseriteria, a panel of 50 people—mostly active astronauts—narrow the list to a few hundred top prospects. These are the folks who have their references called.
The field is then shrunk to 120 candidates. They are brought in for more medical screening and “intense interviews.” Finally, 50 of them are called back for a week of more of interviews and medical screening. (It helps to know how to swim and speak Russian.)
For the recent search, NASA estimated at least 3 million U.S. residents would have met the basic requirements. Not all of them applied, butਊmericans do seem particularly keen on the space race these days. Applications almost tripled from the past hiring round as NASA played up the likelihood of a busier flight schedule. In calling for candidates, the agency noted incoming crews will soon be able to fly to space from Florida—rather than rural Russia since the Space Shuttles were mothballed𠅊s it brings online new crew capsulesਏrom both Boeing Co. and SpaceX. Meanwhile, the agency is prepping its new Orion craft forp-space missions, pushing to launch astronauts on the pod by 2023.
“You may be the first to travel to Mars,” Vice President Mike Pence told the rookies at Wednesday’s announcement.
Historically, most astronauts eventually get to ride on a rocket. Leaving aside the 2013 class, which only recently completed preliminary training, only about 6 percent of astronauts have failed to fly on a mission, according to NASA data.
Not surprisingly, there are no slouches in the new class. All of the new astronauts have at least one graduate degree and four of the 12 are trained test pilots, much like the original Mercury astronauts back in the days of The Right Stuff. Then there’s Jonny Kim, a decorated Navy SEAL who finished 100 combat missions and went on to Harvard Medical School.
“It makes me personally feel very inadequate when you read about what these folks have done,” NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said.
With a starting salary of $66,026, the pay isn’t all that great for this diligent dozen𠅋ut the travel benefits are next level.
Born in 1928 in Cleveland, Ohio, James Lovell was the only child of his mother Blanche (Masek), who was of Czech descent,  and his father, James, Sr., an Ontario, Canada-born coal furnace salesman, who died in a car accident in 1933.  For about two years, Lovell and his mother lived with a relative in Terre Haute, Indiana. After relocating with his mother to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he graduated from Juneau High School. A member of the Boy Scouts during his childhood, Lovell eventually achieved Eagle Scout, the organization's highest level.  
Lovell became interested in rocketry and built flying models as a boy.  After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison for two years under the "Flying Midshipman" program from 1946 to 1948.   While at Madison, he played football and pledged to the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity. 
While Lovell was attending pre-flight training in the summer of 1948, the navy was beginning to make cutbacks in the program, and cadets were under a great deal of pressure to transfer out. There were concerns that some or most of the students who graduated as Naval Aviators would not have pilot billets to fill. This threat persisted until the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. Lovell applied and was accepted to the United States Naval Academy in the fall of 1948. During his first year, he wrote a treatise on the liquid-propellant rocket engine. He attended Annapolis for the full four years, graduating as an ensign in the spring of 1952 with a B.S. degree. He then went to flight training at NAS Pensacola from October 1952 to February 1954. 
In 1952, following his graduation from the Naval Academy, Lovell married his high school sweetheart, Marilyn Lillie Gerlach (born July 11, 1930), the daughter of Lillie (née Nordrum) and Carl Gerlach. The two had attended Juneau High School in Milwaukee.  While she was a college student, Gerlach transferred from Wisconsin State Teachers College to George Washington University in Washington D.C. so she could be near him while he was training in Annapolis.  
The couple has four children: Barbara, James, Susan, and Jeffrey. The 1995 film Apollo 13 portrayed the family's home life during the Apollo 13 mission of 1970 with actress Kathleen Quinlan being nominated for a supporting actress Oscar for her performance as Marilyn Lovell. 
In 1999 the Lovell family opened "Lovell's of Lake Forest", a fine dining restaurant in Lake Forest, Illinois. The restaurant displayed many artifacts from Lovell's time with NASA, as well as from the filming of Apollo 13. The restaurant was sold to son and executive chef James ("Jay") in 2006.  The restaurant was put on the market for sale in February 2014  and closed in April 2015, with the property auctioned the same month.  
Lovell was designated a Naval Aviator on February 1, 1954. Upon completion of pilot training, he was assigned to VC-3 at Moffett Field near San Francisco, California. From 1954 to 1956 he flew F2H-3 Banshee night fighters. This included a WestPac deployment aboard the carrier USS Shangri-La, when the ship emerged from refit as only the second USN carrier with the new angled deck. Upon his return to shore duty, he was reassigned to provide pilot transition training for the F3H Demon.  In January 1958, Lovell entered a six-month test pilot training course at what was then the Naval Air Test Center (now the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Two of his classmates were Pete Conrad and Wally Schirra Lovell graduated first in his class. 
Later that year, Lovell, Conrad, and Schirra were among 110 military test pilots selected as potential astronaut candidates for Project Mercury. Schirra went on to become one of the Mercury Seven, with Lovell and Conrad failing to make the cut for medical reasons: Lovell because of a temporarily high bilirubin count in his blood  and Conrad for refusing to take the second round of invasive medical tests. 
In 1961 Lovell completed Aviation Safety School at the University of Southern California (USC). 
At NAS Patuxent River, Lovell was assigned to Electronics Test (later Weapons Test), with his assigned call sign being "Shaky", a nickname given him by Conrad.  He became F4H program manager, during which time John Young served under him. In 1961 he received orders for VF-101 "Detachment Alpha" as a flight instructor and safety engineering officer. 
In 1962 NASA needed a second group of astronauts for the Gemini and Apollo programs. Lovell applied a second time and was accepted into NASA Astronaut Group 2, "The New Nine".  
Lovell was selected as backup pilot for Gemini 4. This put him in position for his first space flight three missions later, as pilot of Gemini 7 with Command Pilot Frank Borman in December 1965. The flight's objective was to evaluate the effects on the crew and spacecraft from fourteen days in orbit.  This fourteen-day flight set an endurance record making 206 orbits. It was also the target vehicle for the first space rendezvous with Gemini 6A. 
Lovell was later scheduled to be the backup command pilot of Gemini 10. But after the deaths of the Gemini 9 prime crew Elliot See and Charles Bassett, he replaced Thomas P. Stafford as backup commander of Gemini 9A.  This again positioned Lovell for his second flight and first command, of Gemini 12 in November 1966 with Pilot Buzz Aldrin. This flight had three extravehicular activities, made 59 orbits, and achieved the fifth space rendezvous and fourth space docking with an Agena target vehicle. This mission was successful because it proved that humans can work effectively outside the spacecraft, paved the way for the Apollo missions, and helped reach the goal of getting man on the Moon by the end of the decade. 
Lovell was originally chosen as command module pilot (CMP) on the backup crew for Apollo 9 along with Neil Armstrong as commander and Buzz Aldrin as lunar module pilot (LMP). Apollo 9 was planned as a high-apogee Earth orbital test of the Lunar Module (LM). Lovell later replaced Michael Collins as CMP on the Apollo 9 prime crew when Collins needed to have surgery for a bone spur on his spine. This reunited Lovell with his Gemini 7 commander Frank Borman, and LM pilot William Anders. 
Construction delays of the first crewed LM prevented it from being ready in time to fly on Apollo 8, planned as a low Earth orbit test. It was decided to swap the Apollo 8 and Apollo 9 prime and backup crews in the flight schedule so that the crew trained for the low-orbit test could fly it as Apollo 9, when the LM would be ready. A lunar orbital flight, now Apollo 8 replaced the original Apollo 9 medium Earth orbit test. Borman, Lovell and Anders were launched on December 21, 1968, becoming the first men to travel to the Moon. 
As CM Pilot, Lovell served as the navigator, using the spacecraft's built-in sextant to determine its position by measuring star positions. This information was then used to calculate required mid-course corrections. The craft entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve and made a total of ten orbits, most of them circular at an altitude of approximately 70 miles (110 km) for a total of twenty hours. They broadcast black-and-white television pictures of the lunar surface back to Earth. Lovell took his turn with Borman and Anders in reading a passage from the Biblical creation story in the Book of Genesis. 
They began their return to Earth on Christmas Day with a rocket burn made on the Moon's far side, out of radio contact with Earth. (For this reason, the lunar orbit insertion and trans-Earth injection burns were the two most tense moments of this first lunar mission.) When contact was re-established, Lovell was the first to announce the good news, "Please be informed, there is a Santa Claus." The crew splashed down safely on Earth on December 27. 
Lovell was backup commander of Apollo 11 and was scheduled to command Apollo 14. Instead, he and his crew swapped missions with the crew of Apollo 13, as it was felt the commander of the other crew, Alan Shepard, needed more time to train after having been grounded for a long period by an ear problem.  Lovell lifted off aboard Apollo 13 on April 11, 1970, with CM Pilot Jack Swigert and LM Pilot Fred Haise.  He and Haise were to land on the Moon. 
During a routine cryogenic oxygen tank stir in transit to the Moon, a fire started inside an oxygen tank. The most probable cause determined by NASA was damaged electrical insulation on wiring that created a spark that started the fire.  Liquid oxygen rapidly turned into a high-pressure gas, which burst the tank and caused the leak of a second oxygen tank. In just over two hours, all on-board oxygen was lost, disabling the hydrogen fuel cells that provided electrical power to the Command/Service Module Odyssey. This required an immediate abort of the Moon landing mission the sole objective now was to safely return the crew to Earth.
Apollo 13 was the second mission not to use a free-return trajectory, so that they could explore the western lunar regions.  Using the Apollo Lunar Module as a "life boat" providing battery power, oxygen, and propulsion, Lovell and his crew re-established the free return trajectory that they had left, and swung around the Moon to return home.  Based on the flight controllers' calculations made on Earth, Lovell had to adjust the course twice by manually controlling the Lunar Module's thrusters and engine.  Apollo 13 returned safely to Earth on April 17. 
Lovell is one of only three men to travel to the Moon twice, but unlike John Young and Gene Cernan, he never walked on it. He accrued over 715 hours, and had seen a total of 269 sunrises from space, on his Gemini and Apollo flights. This was a personal record that stood until the Skylab 3 mission in July through September 1973. [note 1] Apollo 13's flight trajectory gives Lovell, Haise, and Swigert the record for the farthest distance that humans have ever traveled from Earth.   
Lovell retired from the Navy and the space program on March 1, 1973 and went to work at the Bay-Houston Towing Company in Houston, Texas,  becoming CEO in 1975. He became president of Fisk Telephone Systems in 1977,  and later worked for Centel, retiring as an executive vice president on January 1, 1991.  Lovell was a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.   He was also recognized by the Boy Scouts of America with their prestigious Silver Buffalo Award. 
Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger wrote a 1994 book about the Apollo 13 mission, Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13.  It was the basis for the 1995 Ron Howard film Apollo 13. Lovell's first impression on being approached about the film was that Kevin Costner would be a good choice to portray him, given the physical resemblance,  but Tom Hanks was cast in the role.  In order to prepare, Hanks visited Lovell and his wife at their home in Texas and even flew with Lovell in his private airplane. 
In the film, Lovell has a cameo as the captain of the USS Iwo Jima, the naval vessel that led the operation to recover the Apollo 13 astronauts after their successful splashdown. Lovell can be seen as the naval officer shaking Hanks' hand, as Hanks speaks in voice-over, in the scene where the astronauts come aboard the Iwo Jima. Filmmakers initially offered to make Lovell's character an admiral aboard the ship. However, Lovell said, "I retired as a Captain and a Captain I will be." He was cast as the ship's skipper, Captain Leland E. Kirkemo. Along with his wife Marilyn, who also has a cameo in the film, he provided a commentary track on both the single disc and the two-disc special edition DVD. 
He has served on the Board of Directors for several organizations, including Federal Signal Corporation in Chicago (1984–2003), Astronautics Corporation of America in his hometown of Milwaukee (1990–1999), and Centel Corporation in Chicago (1987–1991).       
A small crater on the far side of the Moon was named Lovell in his honor in 1970.  Discovery World in Milwaukee was named The James Lovell Museum of Science, Economics and Technology. It was also once located on James Lovell St., also named for Lovell.  The Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center was completed in October 2010, merging the Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes and the North Chicago Veterans Affairs Medical Center. 
Lovell's awards and decorations include: 
Military, federal service, and foreign awards
Other awards and accomplishments
- (1990)  (Boy Scouts of America) (1992)  Fall Pledge Class Namesake (1967)  Trophy (1969) 
- American Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award  Award (1969) 
- NASA Ambassadors of Exploration Award  (FAI) De Laval Medal & Gold Space Medals  's Hubbard Medal 's General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award (2003) 
- Laureate of the Order of Lincoln—the highest honor awarded by the state of Illinois (2012) 
- The Honourable Company of Air Pilots Award of Honour, presented by His Royal Highness the Duke of York, October 2013 
The Gemini 6 and 7 crews were awarded the Harmon International Trophy for 1966. It was presented to them at the White House. 
Lovell received his second Harmon International Trophy in 1967 when he and Aldrin were selected for their Gemini 12 flight. 
The Apollo 8 crew won the Robert J. Collier Trophy for 1968.  President Nixon awarded the crew the Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy in 1969. Lovell accepted it on behalf of the crew.  The General Thomas D. White USAF Space Trophy is normally awarded to Air Force personnel, but an exception was made to include Lovell. The Apollo 8 crew were awarded the 1968 trophy.   Lovell was awarded his third Harmon International Trophy in 1969 for his role in the Apollo 8 mission.  The crew was also awarded the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Haley Astronautics Award for 1970.  The Apollo 7, 8, 9, and 10 crews were awarded the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Special Trustees Award for 1969.  The Apollo 8 astronauts were named Time Magazine Men of the Year in 1968. 
In 1982, Lovell was one of ten Gemini astronauts inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame.   Lovell, along with the other 12 Gemini astronauts, was inducted into the second U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame class in 1993.  
At a parade attended by 500,000 people, Lovell was conferred Chicago's medal of merit.  The Apollo 13 crew was awarded the City of New York Gold Medal, but Lovell had already received it for the Apollo 8 mission. In lieu of a second medal, the mayor gifted him a crystal paperweight that he "invented for the occasion".  He was also awarded the 1970 City of Houston Medal for Valor for the mission.  He was awarded his second Haley Astronautics Award for his role on Apollo 13. 
Lovell was on the cover of Time magazine on January 3, 1969 and April 27, 1970.  He was also on the cover of Life magazine on April 24, 1970. 
Lovell was a recipient of the University of Wisconsin's Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 1970. In his acceptance speech he emphasized the use of words over "rock throwing" to help attain political goals.  He was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree at Western Michigan University's summer commencement exercises in 1970.  He was also awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree at William Paterson College's commencement exercises in 1974. 
About a month after the return to Earth of Apollo 13, Lovell and his crewmates, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert, appeared on The Tonight Show with host Johnny Carson.  In 1976, Lovell made a cameo appearance in the Nicolas Roeg movie The Man Who Fell to Earth. 
In 1995, actor Tom Hanks portrayed Lovell in the film Apollo 13, based on Lovell's 1994 book Lost Moon.  Lovell makes a cameo in this movie, playing the captain of the USS Iwo Jima at the end of the film. In 1998, actor Tim Daly portrayed Lovell in portions of the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. 
In 2018, actor Pablo Schreiber portrayed Lovell in the film First Man. 
NASA's photo archives reveal 60 years of space travel
WHEN it comes to illustrating humanity’s achievements in space, NASA’s back catalogue is as good as it gets. The images here are all part of a book tracing the agency’s 60 years of existence using more than 400 photographs.
The big launches, moon landings, starscapes and Martian panoramas all make the cut, alongside plenty of striking views from behind the scenes, images that give a human scale to NASA’s vast technological endeavours.
“Of course, many of the well-known shots were too beautiful to leave out, but we also wanted plenty of lesser-known images, so there was a big effort to delve into obscure archives,” says Piers Bizony, the book’s author and editor.
A big focus is the Apollo project to put people on the moon, as these picture show.
While the book covers decades of effort to reach the great beyond, it also has a message about the stewardship of our home planet. “The fact remains that we cannot relocate 7 billion people,” says Bizony. “Earth has to be our priority in terms of securing a successful future for humanity.”
In another 60 years, hopefully with threats to humanity overcome, someone may trawl NASA’s archives for a sequel. Who knows what they will hold. As Bizony says, maybe there will be images of microbial life on another world or of the spiked pattern of a radio signal from an intelligent extraterrestrial entity.
A lunar landing research vehicle flown by the likes of Neil Armstrong to train for the moon landings
Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty
The radio systems of an Apollo spacecraft being tested in a chamber designed to simulate the echo-free depths of space
Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty
Apollo 11 crew Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong
Computer scientist and mathematician Annie Easley
Putting people on the moon was a huge project for NASA, one that required dedicated engineers, astronauts and computer scientists. Seen here is the space shuttle Discovery docked with the International Space Station in 2005
Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, aboard space shuttle Endeavour
The faint glow surrounding a shuttle, the result of nitrogen in its thermal cladding reacting with oxygen in the very thin atmosphere in low Earth orbit
Above: Apollo 9 crew member David Scott tests spacesuit systems for lunar operations. Below: a Soyuz rocket takes off. It’s one of the most reliable designs of the past 60 years, and still in use today
A Soyuz rocket takes off. It’s one of the most reliable designs of the past 60 years, and still in use today.
The NASA Archives: 60 years in space, edited by Piers Bizony, will be published by Taschen.