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Odds of Getting In

Heard that saying about the camel's chances of making it through the eye of a needle?

Think of those camels when your thoughts turn to being an astronaut because it is extremely difficult to become a government-issue, card-carrying, spacesuit-wearing NASA astronaut. The competition is withering. How about this—for the 21st astronaut class slated for spring 2013, NASA got nearly 6,300 applications for nine to 15 spots. That's .2 percent of the astro-aspirants making the grade. And you're competing against total Type A's—the scientists, the air force people, the test pilots.

Let's say you get lucky, and you're one of those 20. You think you'll be orbital in a year? Fat chance. First, you have to be picked for a mission, and the odds are tiny. The training is long. And now that the U.S. space shuttle is history and living in a museum, you have to muscle in on another country's shuttle—Russia and its Soyuz spacecraft—to make it to the international space station.

Number of American astronauts in space as of November 2012? One—Commander Kevin Ford, from Indiana, whose most recent news splash was a Thanksgiving message, as he and the crew feasted on irradiated smoked turkey and thermo-stabilized yams. Number of Earthbound astronauts? Close to 60.