The first U.S. astronauts were selected in 1959, before human spaceflight operations began. NASA asked the military services to provide a list of personnel who met specific qualifications. After stringent screening, NASA announced its selection of seven men, all pilots, as the first American astronauts. NASA has selected 18 more groups of astronauts since the “Original Seven.” The backgrounds of NASA’s latest group of Astronaut Candidates include schoolteachers, doctors, scientist, and engineers.
NASA selects astronauts from a diverse pool of applicants with a wide variety of backgrounds. From the thousands of applications received, only a few are chosen for the intensive Astronaut Candidate training program. Including the “Original Seven”, only 321 astronauts have been selected to date.
The astronauts of the 21 st century will help lead NASA through the next steps of its Vision for Space Exploration as we explore the Moon, Mars, and beyond.