Most of us grew up wanting to become astronauts at one point or another, with dreams of exploring space.

Well, US citizens now have a chance to turn those dreams into a reality, because NASA has announced that from December 14, it'll be accepting applications for new astronauts for the first time in two years. And those selected will have the opportunity to travel to Mars. Please excuse us while we proceed to freak the crap out.

Even better, the entry requirements have loosened since the last recruitment round, with 20/20 vision no longer being a pre-requisite, and no age restrictions in place. You do need to have obtained a bachelor's degree in a STEM field and have more than three years experience of related professional experience, but that leaves a pretty big pool of people with US citizenship who are eligible to apply.

In the statement released a few hours ago, NASA wrote that they would be accepting applications through the USAJobs site from December 14 through mid-February, with candidates announced in mid-2017. 

"With more human spacecraft in development in the United States today than at any other time in history, 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," the US space agency wrote.

The astronauts selected in this class will have the opportunity to fly on four different vessels throughout their career – the International Space Station, two commercial crew spacecraft that are currently being developed, and the Orion deep-space exploration vehicle, which is the spacecraft that will take humans to Mars in the 2030s.

Right now, NASA only has 47 active astronauts in its ranks, and it's looking to bolster this number before their spacecraft return to flight in 2017.  


So for all of you as keen as we are, what does it take to become an astronaut? Not as much as you might think, and the space agency has broken down a few myths about astronaut recruitment over on their Tumblr.

For starters, astronauts don't need flying experience or military training, and they don't need naturally perfect vision – although your eyesight needs to have been surgically corrected at least a year before you apply.

What's more important is your passion for science, a willingness to learn and travel, and also your physical fitness. And US citizenship is (unfortunately for many of us) a must. If selected, you'll also have to commit to a lengthy selection and training process, with the final astronaut class of 2015 only announced in June 2017. 

But believe us when we say, the pay off will be worth it. "This next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realise the goal of putting boot prints on the Red Planet," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. 

The feels guys, the feels. For anyone who's ever seriously considered life in space, this is your moment. We wish you the best of luck.

Full application criteria are here, and from December 14, you can apply for the astronaut program here.