American space agency NASA has confirmed the organisation has received over applications from mover 6,000 people eager to become astronauts. NASA is currently recruiting to train astronauts for its 2013 batch. Incidentally, this number (6,372 to be exact) is the largest since 1978, when they received more than 8,000 eager applications.

The agency had earlier said they would be looking for new recruits to staff planned missions to the International Space Station (ISS) and help develop the Orion spacecraft for renewed exploration beyond the Earth's orbit, sometime in November.

Following the huge response, officials said the Astronaut Selection Office will sort out applications, over the next few months, and match them to a list of basic qualifications. Those that meet these standards will then be reviewed by a selection committee (in August) that will identify "highly qualified" applicants. The panel will then determine which of the remaining applicants will be invited for an interview and medical evaluation (in November).

"The Flight Crew Operations Directorate is very happy with the large number of applicants for the astronaut program," said Janet Kavandi, Director of Flight Crew Operations, adding, "NASA feels strongly that an appropriate mix of skills, education, and background provide the office with a greater ability to successfully work a wide array of operational situations."

"Historically, we've received between 2,500 and 3,500 applications for each class," said Duane Ross, from NASA's Astronaut Selection Office, adding, "We were a bit surprised, but very pleased by the overwhelming response to our recent Astronaut Candidate vacancy announcement. To me, this demonstrates the fact that the public remains genuinely interested in continuing the exploration of space. As for my office, we will be busy for a while."