Nasa seeking new wave of astronauts
Nasa has launched a recruitment drive for new astronauts despite not owning any suitable spaceship for successful applicants.
"The experience is well worth the wait," promised Nasa flight crew operations director Janet Kavandi as the space agency started a public search for new astronauts.
There will be flights, but not many, with the space shuttle fleet retired. A handful of astronauts each year are launching on a Russian Soyuz spaceship to the International Space Station but in about three to five years, Nasa hopes to pay for trips on American-built commercial rockets instead.
And eventually, Nasa hopes to fly astronauts in a government-owned Orion capsule to an asteroid or even Mars, but those pioneering trips are more than a decade away.
With veteran astronauts leaving the space agency, Ms Kavandi said Nasa is afraid it will not have enough astronauts, something a National Research Council report pointed out in September.
Nasa needs about 55 astronauts, and with a new class of nine already graduated this month, the astronaut payroll is up to 58. One of those new astronauts will get to fly to the space station as early as 2013, Ms Kavandi said.
"We're ready to serve; we're ready to get going," new astronaut Serena Aunon said at Nasa headquarters.