NASA will soon begin recruiting a new class of astronauts, the space agency announced Wednesday morning.
Applications will be accepted starting Dec. 14, beginning a process expected to result in the selection of astronaut candidates in mid-2017.
“Future astronauts will launch once again from the Space Coast of Florida on American-made commercial spacecraft, and carry out deep-space exploration missions that will advance a future human mission to Mars,” NASA said in a press release.
NASA in 2013 selected four men and four women as its most recent astronaut candidates, the first class hired after the space shuttle program’s retirement in 2011.
NASA plans to continue sending crews to the International Space Station in low Earth orbit through 2024. When ready, Boeing and SpaceX capsules launching from Cape Canaveral will be able to carry four crew members up and down, one more than Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.
By 2023 NASA expects to start launching crews from Kennedy Space Center in Orion capsules atop the Space Launch System on missions near the moon, with a long-term goal of sending humans to Mars.
Johnson Space Center, home of the astronaut corps, currently lists 47 active astronauts, not including those occupying management positions.