12 Jun 2017

NZ prof makes it to final 50 in astronaut search

8:47 pm on 12 June 2017

A Canterbury University professor has come tantalisingly close to becoming an astronaut, making it to the final 50 of more than 18,000 applicants.

Dr Sarah Kessans has been shortlisted by NASA to become an astronaut.

Sarah Kessans visited NASA in Texas three times for interviews and tests. Photo: Supplied

Sarah Kessans, a US-born New Zealand resident, made it down to the final 50 of more than 18,000 applicants.

The whole process took 18 months and she had to go to NASA in Texas three times for interviews and tests.

The final 12, NASA's astronaut class of 2017, was announced last week and sadly Dr Kessans wasn't in it.

Dr Kessans told Checkpoint that when NASA announced it would be opening up selection a few years ago, she realised she met the basic requirements and might be qualified.

"Those little kid dreams came flooding back and from that day forward that's just what I wanted to do."

Dr Kessans said there was a record number of applicants this year, so it was definitely steep competition.

She said the application process tried to find out who they were as people and potential team-mates.

Medical tests were also part of it, she said, to ensure applicants were healthy enough for that type of journey.

"Getting to interact with the other final interviewees, it was just one of the most incredible experiences of my life, just really incredible people from sort of all walks of a science and military and engineering backgrounds."

Dr Kessans said the job interview was definitely challenging but it was fun to think and understand that these were the different qualities needed to be sent into space.

She said applicants were not able to make public what the interview questions were.

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