Prospective astronauts that want to be a part of the next NASA class to go to the moon and Mars as part of the Artemis program will, for the first time, have to take an online skills assessment as part of a partnership with the Office of Personnel Management.

NASA opened applications for the upcoming astronaut class March 1, and new applicants will be expected to take the online assessment at the beginning of the application process, so NASA can more expeditiously narrow down the most qualified candidates.

“Becoming an astronaut is no easy task, because being an astronaut is no easy task,” said Steve Koerner, NASA’s director of flight operations and chair of the Astronaut Selection Board, in a statement. “Those who apply will likely be competing against thousands who have dreamed of and worked toward going to space for as long as they can remember. But somewhere among those applicants are our next astronauts, and we look forward to meeting you.”

NASA will make use of OPM’s USA Hire offering, which provides a measure of general competencies and soft skills — interpersonal and networking abilities — deemed critical for the job.

It’s a service that OPM has performed already for some of its own hiring, as well as for positions in Customs and Border Protection, the Defense Finance Accounting Service and the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board.

“We are looking for more Artemis Generation explorers to be NASA astronauts. With OPM’s support putting these new tools in place for the application process, we will be able to efficiently identify the top candidates who may someday explore the moon and Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement.

Applicants must also be U.S. citizens and have a master’s degree or two years toward a Ph.D. program in science, technology, math or engineering, as well as completion of a test pilot school program and at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in a jet aircraft.

Those that make it through the initial application phases will also have to complete in-person physical testing.

Applications for the astronaut positions are due by the end of the day March 31.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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