Change In Selection Criteria

In 1959, and again in 1962, the primary criterion for NASA astronaut selections was the attainment of test pilot qualifications through military service or civilian institu tions. During the 1963 selection, proven piloting skills were still a high priority, but the criteria had been widened to include pilots who had not achieved test pilot flying status, in the hope that this would attract applicants with scientific backgrounds as well as flying experience. It did. On 17 October 1963, fourteen new astronauts were announced to the world's media. Half of the selection held test pilot status, while Air Force Major Edwin ("Buzz") Aldrin had a PhD. Civilian applicants R. Walter Cunningham and Russell L. Schweickart had gained flying experience in military service and had also performed scientific research prior to selection.

Of the 1959 group, Gordon Cooper, "Gus" Grissom and "Deke" Slayton held engineering degrees, while Wally Schirra and Alan Shepard held Bachelor's degrees from the US Naval Academy. The remaining two (Scott Carpenter and John Glenn) had attended college but had not received degrees. All nine members of the 1962 group held degrees: Frank Borman, Elliot See and Ed White had been awarded Master's degrees in engineering; Neil Armstrong, Pete Conrad, Jim McDivitt and John Young had attained Bachelor's degrees in engineering; and Jim Lovell and Tom Stafford held Bachelor's degrees in science from the US Naval Academy. In the third group of fourteen, the academic qualifications were even more varied: Aldrin's PhD was in astronautics; William Anders, Gene Cernan and Theodore Freeman held Master's degrees in engineering; Cunningham's Master's degree was in physics; Schweickart and Dave Scott had attained Master's degrees in aeronautics and astronautics, and Donn Eisele held his in astronautics. There were also six Bachelor's degrees; in engineering (Charles Bassett, Alan Bean, Roger Chaffee and Clifton Williams), chemistry (Dick Gordon), and science (Michael Collins).

For the next intake, NASA would amend the selection criteria once again in order to expand the range of experience within the astronaut office still further.

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