Washington: NASA has received 6,372 applications for its 2013 class of astronauts, double the usual number, the US space agency said.
Only in 1978, when applications surged to more than 8,000, have more people expressed interest in joining the Astronaut Corps, NASA said in a statement.
The agency announced in November that it was looking for new recruits to staff planned missions to the International Space Station and to help develop the Orion spacecraft for renewed exploration beyond earth`s orbit.
The application period closed Jan 27.
"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," Janet Kavandi, the director of Flight Crew Operations, said.
The head of NASA`s Astronaut Selection Office, Duane Ross, said the agency usually receives between 2,500 and 3,500 submissions when it invites applications.
"We were a bit surprised, but very pleased by the overwhelming response to our recent Astronaut Candidate vacancy announcement," he said, adding that the volume of applications shows "the public remains genuinely interested in continuing the exploration of space".
Ross and his staff will spend the next two months sifting through the applications to select the best for a two-stage process of interviews and medical tests.
Final decisions are expected by the spring of 2013.