With the constant bombardment of doom-and-gloom news coverage, it can feel like the only way to escape it all might be by leaving Earth entirely. Just hop on a space shuttle, head to the moon, and hope everything works itself out while you’re gone. Am I right?
Maybe disconnecting from social media and the 24-hour news cycle is the more rational solution. But where’s the drama in that? Plus, for the first time in more than 45 years, NASA is actually sending humans back to the moon — and they’ve started accepting applications for new astronauts.
So if you’re itching to plan your next travel destination, and feeling stuck by your options on Earth, maybe you shouldn’t cross off the moon just yet.
NASA looking for astronauts
NASA began accepting applications for future astronauts this week, according to a press release, marking the first time in over four years that the agency has opened its doors to a new wave of candidates.
This move comes as NASA prepares to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon in 2024 with the Artemis program. Aspiring space explorers have until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, to apply.
To make the cut, applicants must meet a few requirements, including having U.S. citizenship and a master’s degree in a STEM field from an accredited institution. A few examples of STEM fields include engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science, or mathematics.
If you don’t have a master’s degree, all hope isn’t lost. You can also meet the degree requirement if one of the following pertains to you:
- You have two years (36 semester hours or 54 quarter hours) of work toward a Ph.D. program in a related science, technology, engineering, or math field
- You have a completed doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathic medicine degree
- You completed (or your current enrollment will result in completion by June 2021) a nationally or internationally recognized test pilot school program (if test pilot school is your only advanced degree, you must also have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a STEM field)
Of course, we can’t expect NASA to make it that simple. When the agency last opened its doors to applicants in late 2015, more than 18,000 people applied — and only 11 new astronauts graduated after two years of intensive training. Today, only 48 astronauts exist in the active astronaut corps and only 350 people have been selected by NASA since the 1960s to train as astronaut candidates. So, yes, it’s a bit competitive, but becoming an astronaut is not just a path for how to make money, it's one of the best jobs to have.
To even be considered for donning the white extravehicular mobility unit (EMU) spacesuit, candidates must also have “at least two years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft.”
On top of that, astronaut candidates must also pass the NASA long-duration spaceflight physical, which includes specific height, blood pressure, and visual acuity requirements. Then, for the first time in the application process, applicants will be required to take a two-hour online assessment.
When will space tourism go mainstream?
Becoming an astronaut may not feel feasible, but the concept of space tourism is growing in popularity. There are already a number of companies working within the space tourism industry, so it seems likely we’ll get there. Affordable space tourism, however, might be a longer wait.
Virgin Galactic released a handful of seats aboard VSS Unity, Virgin Galactic’s first spaceship to enter service, but they’ve already been reserved. However, you can pay a fully refundable $1,000 registration fee to get your name on the list for when more seats become available. This can then be applied toward your future spaceflight reservation — which will cost $250,000. For context, NASA pays more than $80 million a seat to transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on Russian vehicles.
SpaceX is also rapidly advancing the future of space travel, hitting a number of historic milestones since its founding in 2002 by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk. It’s the only private company that has been able to return a spacecraft from low Earth orbit, and its Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to and from the ISS. According to the SpaceX website, “Dragon was designed from the outset to carry humans to space and will soon fly astronauts under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.”
Will travel rewards credit cards include interplanetary travel?
You can almost imagine it: You’ve got the travel bug, so you head over to Going (formerly Scott's Cheap Flights) — you know, just to peruse its inventory of cheap flight deals.
Then, you see it. It’s the first Premium Deal listed on the site:
*nonstop* Kennedy Space Center, Florida to Moon — $600 (RT, bags extra) Mar - Jun
What a deal!
Without hesitation, you pull out your best travel credit card. Space travel falls under the bonus travel spending category, right? You think to yourself. Of course, it does. You punch in your card details and click submit. Pack your bags, you’re heading to the moon.
As amazing as this sounds, we’re likely nowhere near a $600 roundtrip moon vacation. So hoarding your points and miles for an unforeseeable trip to the cosmos may not be the best use of your credit card rewards. Instead, you may want to focus on where your next travel destination will be right here on this beautiful and vast, blue planet.
Great for Flexible Travel Rewards
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Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
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