"More than 18,300 people applied to join NASA's 2017 astronaut class, almost three times the number of applications received in 2012 for the most recent astronaut class, and far surpassing the previous record of 8,000 in 1978. "It's not at all surprising to me that so many Americans from diverse backgrounds want to personally contribute to blazing the trail on our journey to Mars," said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, himself a former astronaut. "A few exceptionally talented men and women will become the astronauts chosen in this group who will once again launch to space from U.S. soil on American-made spacecraft."
Keith's note: Of the 18,300 applications NASA will pick - at most - a dozen candidates. And those new NASA astronauts that are selected can expect to wait nearly 20 years before they go on the #JourneyToMars or wherever. One has to assume that most of the people applying knew it was a long shot. Many probably did it so that they could get the rejection letter (larger image) to frame and show people that they tried. Many more, however, really, really, REALLY would like to fly in space.
NASA did a good job via social media in pumping people to apply. But what is NASA going to do with this interest once reality sets in and 99.9% of the applicants get the rejection letter? Think about it - a marketing plan (oh wait, NASA is not supposed to that) - an education and public outreach (EPO) effort - has just identified 18,300 people who want to fly in space. I suspect the real number out there has multiple zeros after it. That said, NASA now knows who these 18,300 people are. They applied for a job, so all manner of government privacy regulations kick in. As such, NASA probably can't do a damn thing with this priceless information. Or maybe they can.
NASA has done a lot of #NASASocial stuff. It is useful, but I think it has reached the limit of its effectiveness. NASA now needs to enlist a more robust, personal, one-on-one approach to its EPO efforts. NASA has/had a "solar system ambassadors" program as well as other EPO programs that enlisted interested educators and citizens. Guess what: 18,300 potential participants just popped up on NASA's radar screen.
Again: 18,300 citizens just said that they want to fly on a NASA rocket. What is NASA going to do with this influx of self-identified and overtly-avowed space explorers?