Despite waning public enthusiasm for civilians on board space shuttles, teachers are jumping at the chance to become astronauts.

NASA recently received more than 1,600 applications from educators who wanted to fill a handful of educator-astronaut positions. The agency said it plans to hire three to six teachers who will join NASA's Astronaut Corps on a permanent basis.

The educator-astronauts will be trained to perform spacewalks, operate the Space Shuttle's robotic arm, and lead research experiments.

While the public generally supports the space program...

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