March 31, 1997
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) selected the first group of astro-nauts in 1959. From 500 candidates having the required jet aircraft flight experience and engi-neering training as well as height below 5 feet 11 inches, 7 military men became the Nation’sfirst astronauts. The second and third groups chosen included civilians who had extensive flyingexperience. By 1964, requirements had changed, and emphasis was placed on academic quali-fications; in 1965, 6 scientist astronauts were selected from a group of 400 applicants who hada doctorate or equivalent experience in the natural sciences, medicine, or engineering. Thegroup named in 1978 was the first of space shuttle flight crews and was composed of 15 pilotsand 20 mission specialists; 6 of the 35 were women and 4 were members of minorities. Sincethen, 8 additional groups have been selected with a mix of pilots and mission specialists.In total, 268 U.S. astronauts have been selected in the 16 groups from 1959 through 1996;there are 98 astronauts and 35 candidates currently in the program; 110 astronauts haveretired, resigned or been reassigned; and 25 are deceased.Several sections are included in this document to provide general information about the interna-tional astronauts who are participating in the U.S. Space Program.Payload specialists are career scientists or engineers selected by their employer or country fortheir expertise in conducting a specific experiment or commercial venture on a space shuttlemission. Information about them is not included in the Astronaut Fact Book.The space flights and statistics listed in this publication are those which resulted from the verti-cal takeoff of an American space vehicle. Astronauts listed are individuals who participated inthe United States astronaut program including those who are in the training program.NASAaccepts applications for the Astronaut Candidate Program on a continuing basis andselects candidates as needed.