Clearly, the dream is still alive.
A remarkable 6,372 people submitted applications to NASA for a handful of openings in the Astronaut Office -- this despite the fact that NASA retired the shuttle fleet in July and its next spacecraft for piloted missions won't be ready to launch until 2017.
Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters, a spokeswoman for NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, said the tally is the second highest number of applications ever received. More than 8,000 applied to become NASA astronauts in 1978 -- the class selected to fly missions during the advent of shuttle operations.
Janet Kavandi, deputy director of the Flight Crew Operations directorate at JSC, said NASA "is very happy with the large number of applicants for the astronaut program."
"NASA feels strongly that an appropriate mix of skills, education, and background provide the office with a greater ability to successfully work a wide array of operational situations," she said.
NASA during the shuttle era selected new astronauts every two years. The agency typically received about 3,500 applications per class, and the competition always has been stiff. The number selected ranged between about one dozen and three dozen people.
And the next class?
From the pool of 6,372 people, NASA will select nine to 15 to join the astronaut corps in 2013.