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Fancy a career change? NASA’s hiring astronauts!

Fancy a career change? Interested in an out-of-this-world opportunity – in every sense of the expression? Then how about becoming an astronaut?

NASA said this week it’s about to begin a search for a new generation of space pioneers “in anticipation of returning human spaceflight launches to American soil and in preparation for the agency’s journey to Mars.” It spread the word on Twitter and Instagram in the hope of encouraging the “best and brightest” talents to apply.

And yes, although famed astronaut Chris Hadfied may have led you to believe that being a space traveler requires little more than photography skills, musical talent, and a Twitter account, NASA would like to point out that there’s a bit more to it than that.

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Candidates must, for example, have earned a bachelor’s degree – though an advanced degree is “desirable” – from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. If that’s still you, do you also have at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft? You do? Heck, you’re as good as in. Maybe.

You’ll also need exceptional eyesight, healthy blood pressure, and a height of between 62 and 75 inches (157 to 190cm) to pass NASA’s spaceflight physical. Oh, and there’s also the small matter of proving you’re better than the thousands of other applicants. But hey, you didn’t expect it to be easy, did you?

Get selected and you could find yourself journeying to the ISS aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner or SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsules, or even into deep space on the Orion spacecraft, which if all goes to plan should  become the first manned spacecraft to fly beyond the moon, possibly in 2023.

“This next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realize the goal of putting boot prints on the Red Planet,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said on the agency’s website, adding, “Those selected for this service will fly on U.S.-made spacecraft from American soil, advance critical science and research aboard the International Space Station, and help push the boundaries of technology in the proving ground of deep space.”

Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet in 2011, NASA has been relying on Russian rockets to get its astronauts into space. But the U.S. is gearing up to return to the fold with manned launches from American soil, and it’s looking to create a new team of astronauts for the ambitious task in hand.

Yes, it all sounds very exciting, so if you’re bursting with qualifications and looking for a new challenge, how about it?

NASA says it’ll start accepting applications from December 14 through mid-February and plans to make final selections in mid-2017.