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Got the Right Stuff? NASA Is Hiring New Astronauts

Astronauts Perform Spacewalk Outside of ISS 1:19

NASA is looking for more people with The Right Stuff.

The space agency says it will begin accepting applications from Dec. 14 through mid-February for people who want to be astronauts.

"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 Wednesday in a statement. "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."

Boeing and SpaceX are building spacecraft that NASA hopes to use to launch humans to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral starting in 2017. There hasn't been a crewed spaceflight launch from American soil since the space shuttle program was shut down in 2011.

NASA is also testing a Space Launch System rocket designed to carry astronauts into deep space — and perhaps Mars some day — in the agency's Orion capsule.

Related: Space Station Celebrates 15 Years of Humans Living in Orbit

There are currently 47 people in NASA's active astronaut corps. NASA says more will be needed for future missions to the space station and beyond.

So what does it take to be an astronaut? Candidates must have at least a bachelor's degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or math; at least three years of related professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft; and must pass NASA's long-duration spaceflight physical. There are no age restrictions, though the average age of candidates selected in the past is 34.

Related: Astronaut Scott Kelly Takes His First-Ever Spacewalk

Pay starts at $66,000 per year and can go as high as $144,566 with experience.

More information about an astronaut career can be found at http://www.nasa.gov/astronauts