Picture this: You were 5-years-old, running around your house with a glass bowl over your head, telling your family "When I grow up, I'm gonna be an astronaut!". Did you possess this dream as a child? If so, you probably hold the ambition needed to go to Mars. NASA is hoping to send some lucky people up there in say, 10-30 years, and it could be YOU.

Now before we get started, if you're already past your thirties and think space exploration just may be a suitable change in career path, think again. Unless you already have alot of experience in the areas of science and/or maths, you're not likely to get into NASA that easy. NASA accepts only 20 or so applicants for training from each 4,000 who apply, and this happens once every 2 years. Don't be discouraged by the figures. To get selected, it is best to start young. As young as elementary school.

As a child you'll need to grasp the basics, because you wont get anywhere without maths and science. Start reading as many books on space as you can. Reading about a place like Mars just might fuel your ambition, too. Developing teamwork skills is essential -- so join a local junior sports team! This should also help you get fit, which prove valuable further down the track.

If you already speak English, you've got it easy. Otherwise, you'll need to learn it. NASA has made it very clear that every member assisting with the Mars expedition will speak English, whether it is a first, second, third or even eighth language. This is due to the need for communication amongst people involved. NASA does like bilingual applicants, so it is a good idea for an English speaking hopeful to take up a second language if they do not yet have one.

When you move on up to high school, you need to aim for the best grades possible. Choose a specific direction of study like mathematics or engineering, and pursue it. Move on to college and get a bachelor's degree in your chosen field. Make sure that you enjoy the subject you've chosen, because you won't perform as well if you don't have a passion for it. Choosing to complete a certain degree because it might look good on your application is not the way to go. After you've obtained a degree, get a few years of professional work experience under your belt. Internships are a swell idea here. NASA looks at how well an applicant has done in their chosen career path, so being experienced plays an important part during selection.

Once you fully believe you're qualified for the job, send in US Government Application Form 171 to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Your academic and physical abilities will be taken into consideration when you are reviewed. You'll need to be atleast 58" tall and very fit. From an average of 4000 applicants, 118 are asked to go to the JSC for medical examinations and interviews. The interviews will help determine your abilities in problem solving, interpersonal and technical skills.

If you've made it this far, congratulations! Even if you aren't selected by NASA, you'll be qualified in a field you love and excel in (I really hope you didn't end up choosing a certain area of expertise because you thought it looked good!). If you happen to be one of the lucky few to be accepted, you'll move on to training at NASA. The work here will long and tiresome. Expect to work 14 hours a day. The salary is not as high as people often believe it to be, but if you've come this far you wont be doing it for the money.

Being chosen for the voyage to Mars is really a matter of working for NASA at the right time. Currently, many current and former NASA employees are travelling around the world to visit schools, hoping to inspire students, as the children of today will most likely be the ones going to Mars in the future.

The information in this node came from a talk given by an ex-NASA employee at my own school, and
http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/academy/astronauts/wannabe.html

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