According to the numbers, getting into an Ivy League university is much easier than becoming a NASA astronaut.
Every year, 19 out of every 20 hopeful high school students who apply to institutions like Princeton, Harvard, and Yale are disappointed by rejection letters. Acceptance rates are only in the single digits.
But those are still pretty good odds compared to what NASA astronaut applicants face.
Last time the space agency opened the door to a new class of astronauts, more than 12,000 applied. In December 2021, NASA selected 10 of them — a rejection rate of more than 99.9 percent. That’s actually up from the previous round in 2017, when 18,300 people applied and NASA chose 12.
Not all astronauts at NASA are qualified to fly into space. Some, including NASA’s current deputy administrator, Pamela Melroy, have taken management positions at the space agency and are therefore known as management astronauts. They cannot be assigned to a mission unless they relinquish their status and return to the active astronaut list.
That leaves that 41 astronauts Currently considered active at NASA. It is from this group that the agency selects the four astronauts who will travel to the moon during the Artemis II mission.
(Members of the 10th class in the new class are not eligible for Artemis II. They have not yet completed initial training and remain “astronauts.” They may be ready by the time the crew for Artemis III is selected.)
In December 2020, NASA announced an “Artemis team” of 18 astronauts, suggesting that crews for initial missions would be selected from this group. But in August of last year, the head of the astronaut office, Reed Wiseman, said that all active-duty astronauts would be considered.
“We want to assemble the right team for this task,” he said.
It is the head of the Astronaut Office and his deputy who are in charge of assigning the team, and they are not allowed to choose themselves.
Mr. Wiseman has stepped down from that post, as has his deputy Andrew Feustel, so both are now eligible for Artemis II. In their place – Joseph Agaba is no longer the head of the office and Shannon Walker is the deputy.
Astronauts currently in orbit on the International Space Station, and those who will be there for six months later this year, are unlikely to be selected for Artemis II; They don’t have time to practice.
Then again, some astronauts may be glad they weren’t chosen to orbit the moon on Artemis II. That’s because it means they’re still available for the project’s biggest moment — the first moon landing during Artemis III.