US space agency NASA said on Friday that a record number of Americans have applied to be astronauts this year.
NASA said in a statement it has received more than 18,300 applications for its 2017 astronaut class, almost three times the number it received in 2012 for the most recent astronaut class, and far surpassing the previous record of 8,000 in 1978.
"It's not at all surprising to me that so many Americans from diverse backgrounds want to personally contribute to blazing the trail on our journey to Mars," said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, himself a former astronaut.
"A few exceptionally talented men and women will become the astronauts chosen in this group who will once again launch to space from US soil on American-made spacecraft."
The application window opened on December 14, and closed on Thursday. Now, an 18-month process will begin to choose eight to 14 individuals for the opportunity to become astronaut candidates, reports Xinhua.
NASA said it will announce its selections in mid-2017.
Then, the astronaut candidates will go through about two years of initial training on spacecraft systems, spacewalking skills and teamwork, Russian language and other requisite skills.
Finally, those who complete the training will be assigned on any of four different spacecraft: the International Space Station, NASA's Orion spacecraft for deep space exploration, or one of two American-made commercial crew spacecraft currently in development—Boeing's CST-100 Starliner or the SpaceX Crew Dragon, NASA added.