WASHINGTON (NNS) -- A Navy administrative message (NAVADMIN) released Nov. 30 announced the Navy will begin accepting applications for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) Astronaut Candidate class of 2013 at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The Navy NASA Astronaut Candidate selection board #295 is scheduled to convene May 1, 2012. Applications and endorsements are due to Navy Personnel Command no later than March 15, 2012.
"We're looking for people who can perform," said Navy Capt. Lee Morin, M.D., Ph.D., a naval astronaut and former flight surgeon in the Navy medical corps. "We need people who work well with others and represent the agency well, not only to the American people, but to the world. Most important is someone who is a good team player and who's not in it for themselves, or their ego."
Navy Capt. Barry Wilmore, naval astronaut and former Navy test pilot who has logged more than 259 hours in space, said NASA needs someone who has been working in the Navy's operational flow.
"In the role of an astronaut, we do a lot in the design phases of the various programs. But, ultimately, we are operators on the pointy end of the spear," Wilmore said. "And you can receive no better training, I believe, than through a career in the Navy."
The announcement of the astronaut class comes a few months after NASA's last Space Shuttle mission landed, marking the end of a 30-year era of U.S.-led Shuttle missions to the low-Earth orbit of space and the International Space Station (ISS).
The completion of the Shuttle program has opened the door for NASA to continue to send astronauts to conduct research aboard the ISS, and to focus on the next era of space discovery: deep space exploration.
NASA is developing the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, or MPCV, to serve as the exploration vehicle to carry a crew to deep space. For travel to low-Earth orbit, NASA has partnered with commercial partners who are creating contract-use vehicles for travel to low-Earth orbit and to the International Space Station (ISS).
"First and foremost, we still have a space program, and it's going strong," said retired Navy Capt. Christopher Ferguson, naval astronaut and commander of the final Shuttle mission STS-135 aboard Atlantis. "We've got four different companies and four different ideas for commercially-run projects. This will help NASA gain some of the efficiencies, cost savings and innovative ideas that come out of commercial ventures, for a better, cheaper, faster way to get Americans to low-Earth orbit from American soil."
Morin, who served aboard the Shuttle mission STS-110 in 2002 and has logged more than 259 hours in space, currently works in the exploration branch developing the cockpit of the Orion spacecraft. Morin said the Orion and the capabilities it will bring to human space exploration is the key to the future of NASA's space program.
"We can return to the moon, an asteroid, or even a moon of Mars. We've only been to deep space six times, in six moon trips, with the last one in 1973. If we're going to go out and maintain our presence in space, we need to go beyond low-Earth orbit, and the Orion will take us there," said Morin. "This is the next step to space-faring civilization and a sustained presence. Humanity is life's agent."
Current chief of NASA's Astronaut Corps Peggy Whitson, Ph.D., said, philosophically, deep space exploration is important and inherent to whom we are as human beings. From a technological perspective, she said, space exploration benefits us here on Earth, helping us maintain a "technological high."
Whitson also stressed the importance of keeping our current presence in space, specifically aboard the ISS.
"The space program is funded through 2020. We've had 11 years of consistent human presence in space, and that program is still underway," said Whitson, who spent more than a year in space, including a tour as commander of Expedition 16.
From the NASA's construction of the Orion MPCV to the upcoming astronaut class of 2013, it is apparent there is a solid need for not only astronauts, but naval astronauts.
"It's a very exciting time for new people to come to NASA right now because we are still exploring space and have people aboard the International Space Station every day," said Cmdr. Christopher Cassidy, Navy SEAL and naval astronaut. "And the Navy is a big part of that."
The Navy has a long and proud tradition at NASA, said Lt. Cmdr. Reid Wiseman, which sets the tone for strong naval applicants to the astronaut program.
"The first American in space: naval aviator; First man on the moon: naval aviator; Last man on the moon: naval aviator; First American to orbit Earth: Marine Corps aviator; First crew of the space shuttle: two naval aviators; The last crew of the space shuttle: naval and Marine Corps aviators; First commander of the ISS: Navy SEAL," said Wiseman, graduate of the astronaut class of 2009. "The Navy or Marine Corps is always poking its head out in the forefront of the space program."
NASA is accepting applications on-line through Jan. 27, 2012. The application can be found at http://astronauts.nasa.gov.
To view NAVADMIN 362/11, visit: http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/reference/messages/Documents/NAVADMINS/NAV2011/NAV11362.txt