Astronauts have long held one of the most selective jobs in the world. They are the best of the best. But finding people that are able to live up to the expectations of the position is very difficult, and changing.
When humans were just beginning to go to space nearly all of the astronauts were chosen for their physical abilities and their skill with aircraft. Space and the vehicles to get there were such unknowns the astronauts were supposed to be able to deal with whatever was thrown at them. With the creation of space stations, astronauts changed play more of the role of the scientist than the test pilot. They perform space research without as many of the risks and unknowns that early astronauts faced.
Astronauts are continuing to change. Individual psychologies and skills are going to need to be mixed and matched depending upon missions. Like the equipment sent on a spaceship for a mission, the crews will need to be tailored for the task.
The typical means of selecting astronauts in the past has been to go through a process of applications, interviews, tests and evaluations. NASA can take over a year selecting new potential candidates. But, with human space missions on the rise and colonization in the future the long arduous methods of choosing astronauts will not continue to be feasible. When space missions occur on a regular basis it is just not practical to spend a year finding the perfect crew or drawing from a pool of perfect astronauts.
For example, Mars One is working to put together a crew for a one way mission to Mars. This crew will have to take care of itself. It can't be only engineers, or scientists, or doctors, or even one single gender. The crew must also be able to live with each other inside of a tin can for months or even years. They must be perfectly cohesive and comprehensively skilled for this particular adventure or it could all end in disaster.
Mars One is only just beginning to screen the last few hundred people after having accepted 200,000 applications over a period of several months. The selection of astronauts should not require such long selection periods. Imagine if Mars One hadn't needed to create and control the entire process itself but was able to talk to an Astronaut Recruiter that could pull together the perfect team for their space mission just as one would for a football team or company.
This organization would essentially be an astronaut Linked-In. A company that is constantly looking for, sorting, and selecting talent and personalities that can be combined to create the perfect space crew for a particular mission.
Such a company would likely begin life as something as simple as a website. Aspiring astronauts could complete a profile which would include information about accomplishments, physical characteristics and even basic psychological evaluations and other tests. Then companies that are looking to create a crew for some type of mission will be able to access that site in order to search in a semi-sorted pool of choices.
As the company grows it could continually develop its means of evaluating potential astronauts. Incorporating algorithms along the lines of dating sites for the creation of potential teams. Sorting people into groups based on skills and personal preferences.
Eventually the company could integrate face to face interviews and recruiting. Becoming the HR resource for the space industry. Such evolution would allow the company to be the "go to" sub-contractor of spacefarers. Then, instead of someone, like MarsOne, having to accept 200,000 applications it could simply call up the Astronaut Recruiter, give them mission specs then a recommendation of persons would be sent in return for a fee.
The "secret sauce" of an Astronaut Recruiter would be how it is able to evaluate potential crews psychologically and physically. For this reason the founders of such a company would likely be ex-psychologist or HR personnel that have learned how to tell when one person will fit a position or situation and another would not.
The revenue model for such a company would be two sided. Just as Linked-In charges members for a premium account an Astronaut recruiter could charge potential applicants for increased access to particular resources. The Astronaut Recruiter could also charge prospective employers for the search service rendered as with any employee search site or organization.
Currently, the market is not in dire need of a recruiter for astronauts. Though if it had existed two years ago it could have been a part of the Mars One search.
However, in coming years crews will increasingly need to be tailored. The men and women needed to go mine the Moon, work in orbit, or colonize Mars will all have to have very different combinations of characteristics, just as in any job. The need for someone who can construct a perfect space team will become very great and is something which can be begun today.