NASA, notes Ars Technica, has just produced a bumper crop of applicants for the coveted job of astronaut. 18,300 would-be astronauts applied to be part of the 2017 hiring class. It would be good to keep a backup job in mind, though: NASA's astronaut applications have surged even as its flight opportunities have fallen by about 90 percent. Back in the early 2000s during the peak of the space shuttle program, NASA had more than 150 active astronauts. That's because the shuttle, with six to seven launches a year, afforded 40 to 50 annual flights into space. The number of active astronauts is now about one-third of that peak due to the shuttle's retirement in 2011. With no Shuttle, and only one real destination (the International Space Station), those 18,300 astronauts will be whittled down to 8-14 candidates.
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