Following the grounding of America’s shuttle fleet, many observers were dubious about the future of manned space flight in the United States. The slow pace of development of alternate vehicles, though not entirely off the table, is compounded by tight purse strings in Washington. But it looks like NASA is still going to manage to generate a few jobs, as they have put the help wanted sign back up for astronauts. There’s just one catch… you need to speak Russian.

Nasa have posted new job openings for the first time since the final space shuttle launch – but recruits must pass a Russian language test.

The agency is calling for members of the armed forced – the traditional base of recruits – for astronauts to serve on the International Space Station.

But, since the U.S. no longer has a manned rocket programme, the only way to get there is aboard a aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule – meaning a knowledge of their language is essential…

…Americans hoping to get to space will first have to travel 5,500 miles to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan.

On the Nasa website, Armed forces members are asked to apply to their respective services, ranging from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and even the Coast Guard.

Confidence in the Russian space program isn’t exactly at an all time high after their launch of a mission to Mars failed rather spectacularly a couple of weeks ago. But we’re going to need some sort of short term solution if we’re to maintain a presence in space. The next generation of American space vehicles is on the drawing board (along with a massive new space telescope) but even the most optimistic estimates indicate that it will be 2016 or beyond before anything on that scale lifts off the ground.

Personally, I feel that space exploration – either manned or unmanned – is deeply engrained in the American psyche. We’ll be going back, but not until somebody gets control of the jobs situation and the nation is on more stable, fiscally conservative footing. Until then, I fear that projects like these will be viewed as needlessly expensive window dressing.