A record number of Americans have applied to be astronauts this year, according to NASA.
More than 18,300 people applied to be in NASA’s 2017 astronaut class, almost three times as many as applied in 2012 for NASA’s most recent class. The previous record was 8,000 applicants, in 1978.
The application was open from Dec. 14 through Thursday, and now the hard work begins: over the next 18 months, NASA will select 8-14 applicants for the opportunity to be astronaut candidates, and they’ll have two years of training before they actually get assigned to any space missions.
“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, said in a statement. “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.”