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Record Number Of Astronaut Wannabes Apply To NASA

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — I guess the phrase 'to infinity, and beyond' really caught on!  Apparently, space travel never looked so good.

NASA has announced that it received a record number of applicants — some 18,300 — for its next astronaut class. That's more than double the previous record of 8,000 for the first space shuttle astronaut class in 1978.

So, what's different? This time, NASA hit social media hard to promote the openings.

The odds of getting picked are small; only eight to 14 Americans will be chosen. NASA expects it will take 1½ years to whittle down the list. Candidates need to be U.S. citizens with a bachelor's degree in science, math or engineering.

"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," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former space shuttle commander, said in a statement.

A trip to Texas is in the plan for whoever the Astronaut Selection Board chooses. Candidates train at the Johnson Space Center in Houston  before officially becoming astronauts.

Like the eight-member Class of 2013, the future astronauts will train to fly to the International Space Station on capsules under development by SpaceX and Boeing, as well as on NASA's Orion spacecraft intended for deep-space exploration. NASA aims to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.

The two-month application period closed last week.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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