SCOTT KELLY
Here is your chance to join the likes of Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly, seen here working and living aboard the International Space StationNasa

For those of you who admired Matt Damon's Mark Watney in The Martian, here is a chance to join the legion. Starting in December, Nasa is on a recruitment mission, this time for "the next generation of space pioneers".

Applications for consideration as a Nasa astronaut will be accepted at: http://www.usajobs.gov
Candidates must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics, while an advanced degree is desirable, Nasa says.

Candidates must also have at least three years of related professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Astronaut candidates will have to pass Nasa's long-duration spaceflight physical.

"This next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realise the goal of putting boot prints on the Red Planet," Nasa administrator Charles Bolden, a former astronaut, said in a statement.

Astronaut salaries range between $66,000 (£43,000) and $158,000 a year. In its last drive four years ago, the agency picked just eight out of the 6,400 who applied. At present it has 47 astronauts, a third of what it commanded in the 1990s.

The agency is preparing for a slew of space missions including deep-space visits to an asteroid and Mars by 2030. More immediately, Nasa is preparing for 2017 when US spacecraft return to flight and to add a seventh crew member to each station mission.

"This is an exciting time to be a part of America's human space flight program," Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at Nasa's Johnson Space Center in Houston, said in a statement. So far only about 300 people have joined Nasa's astronaut corps. Besides pilots, these include engineers, scientists, doctors and teachers.