So Who Wants To Be an Astronaut?
In 2003 the General Accounting Office concluded that NASA was overmanned with astronauts. Nevertheless in 2004 NASA held an astronaut selection, their first in 4 years. They selected 11 candidates from over 3,000 applications. Today there are about 125 active-duty astronauts (minus one). The term "Astronaut Corps" is a misnomer. A corps is 3 divisions or about 50,000 soldiers. Since 100 soldiers form a company, Astronaut Company would be a more accurate term.
14 more Space Shuttle missions are planned between now and 2010, when the system is scheduled to be retired. (Room has also been made for 2 additional contingency missions.) Even if each flight carries seven crewmembers, there are only 91 seats left. Some of those seats will be occupied by those who have already flown. At least 1/4 of the current astronaut company will never get to fly the Shuttle again.
Following retirement of the shuttles, there will be a 4-year gap when the US will have NO manned spacecraft. That will be the longest such gap since 1975-1981, between the Apollo-Soyuz mission and Columbia's first flight. 13 manned flights are planned for Orion leading to a Moon landing in December 2019. If the average mission carries four crewmembers, that is only 52 total seats.
Each year Hollywood releases hundreds of feature films. With all the odds against being a successful actor, one's chances are greater of starring in a movie than of becoming an astronaut. That should not stop us from trying. The dream of spaceflight drives us to accomplish great things.