NASA next month will begin recruiting another group of candidates who think they have the right stuff for spaceflight.
The agency today announced it would open applications in early November for an astronaut class to be named in 2013.
NASA says the new astronaut class could participate in long-duration flights to the International Space Station or eventual exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit.
But applications will be submitted during a period of extreme uncertainty about NASA's human spaceflight program.
No U.S. commercial vehicles are expected to fly to the station before at least 2015, and a huge government-operated rocket won't fly a crewed test flight before 2021.
Nonetheless, Janet Kavandi, director of flight crew operations at Johnson Space Center in Houston, called it "an exciting time to join the astronaut corps."
"This next class will support missions to the station and will arrive via transportation systems now in development," she said in a statement. "They also will have the opportunity to participate in NASA's continuing exploration programs that will include missions beyond low Earth orbit."
Interested? Click here for more info on how to apply.
Despite the uncertain future, a National Research Council report last month said NASA needed to take steps to ensure a highly trained astronaut corps. The report (read it here) said the agency's staffing plans didn't provide enough flexibility to reliably meet projected needs for space station missions.
With the retirement of the space shuttle program this year, the number of astronauts has dropped to about 60 from nearly 150 in 2000.
NASA didn't specify the size of the next astronaut class. Fourteen candidates, including nine Americans and five international representatives, were selected in the Class of 2009 and are still in training.
The new class would be the 21st since selection of the Original Seven in 1959.
IMAGE: In July 1962, the Original Seven astronauts in Mercury space suits. Front row, left to right, are Wally Schirra, Deke Slayton, John Glenn, and Scott Carpenter. Back row, from the left, are Alan Shepard, Virgil "Gus" Grissom and Gordon Cooper. Credit: NASA