Thursday, 8 June 2017

NASA picks 12 new astronauts, including an Indian-American, for Earth orbit and deep space missions

The 12 new astronaut candidates - seven men and five women - were chosen from more than 18,300 people who submitted applications from December 2015 to February 2016.  

The 2017 NASA Astronaut Class: (from left) Zena Cardman, Jasmin Moghbeli, Jonny Kim, Frank Rubio, Matthew Dominick, Warren Hoburg, Robb Kulin, Kayla Barron, Bob Hines, Raji Chari, Loral O' Hara and Jessica Watkins.
After evaluating a record-breaking number of applicants, NASA has chosen 12 new astronauts, including an Indian-American, who will be trained for missions into Earth orbit and to deep space.
The 12 new astronaut candidates - seven men and five women - were chosen from more than 18,300 people who submitted applications from December 2015 to February 2016. This is the largest group NASA has selected in almost two decades - more than double the previous record of 8,000 set in 1978.
Watch as Vice President Mike Pence joined acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot, Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa, and Flight Operations Director Brian Kelly to welcome the new astronaut candidates or "ascans" during an event on June 7, 2017, at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The event was set inside the Johnson Space Center's Space Vehicle Mockup Facility in front of a full-scale engineering model of NASA's Orion spacecraft, which the new astronauts might fly in the coming years on missions beyond low Earth orbit.
The newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates were announced June 7, 2017. They comprise the 22nd class of American spaceflight trainees since 1959. The term astronaut candidate refers to individuals who have been selected by NASA as candidates for the NASA astronaut corps and are currently undergoing a candidacy training program at the Johnson Space Center.
To get picked, people had to meet some physical requirements as well as certain education and experience criteria such as having a bachelor's degree in a STEM field or accumulating up to 1,000 hours of piloting jets.
But it's clear that this new class greatly surpasses all the minimum skills that NASA requires.
Pence said that President Donald Trump is "firmly committed" to NASA's mission in space and that "America will lead the way in space once again."
He said that NASA would continue to have the resources it needs to "make history" even though the president's budget request cuts funding and cancels certain programs at the agency.
He also mentioned that NASA would continue to collaborate with the commercial space industry in the future.
While delivering the speech, Pence touted the merits of the new astronaut class.
"The courage of these men and women, and all the astronauts who have gone before, inspires me to this very day," he said.

Learn more about the 2017 Astronaut Class

The 12 new candidates include six military officers, three scientists, two medical doctors, a lead engineer at SpaceX and a NASA research pilot.
  • Lt Col Raja "Grinder" Chari, 39, whose father is from India, is a commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Hailing from Waterloo, Iowa, Chari earned a Master's degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT and graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School. 
  • Lt Kayla "Sax" Barron, 29, is a US Navy submarine officer from Richland, Washington. A member of the US Navy's first class of women commissioned into the submarine community, Barron comes to NASA from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where she has been serving as the Flag Aide to the Superintendent.
  • Zena Cardman, a 29-year-old is a geobiologist who had done research at Penn State University in Pennsylvania. Her research was focused on microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments.
  • Lt Commander Matthew Dominick, the 35-year-old department is the head for the US Navy's Strike Fighter Squadron 115. Born and raised in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, Dominick was at sea on the USS Ronald Reagan when he got the call on May 25 saying he had been selected as an astronaut candidate.
  • Bob Hines, a 42-year-old NASA research pilot is based at Johnson Space Center since 2012. Hines hails from Harrisburg in Pennsylvania. He attended the Air Force Test Pilot School for his Master's degree in flight test engineering. He has served in the US Air Force and Air Force Reserves for 18 years.
  • Warren "Woody" Hoburg, a 31-year-old assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, has earned a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkley.
  • Jonny Kim, a 33-year-old Navy lieutenant and SEAL, who has has been on active duty reserve while completing his residency at Massachusetts General Hospital.
  • Robb Kulin, the 33-year-old lead of the Launch Chief Engineering group at SpaceX in Hawthorne, California. He has previous experience as an ice driller in Antarctica on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and Taylor Glaciers and as a commercial fisherman in Chignik, Alaska.
  • Major Jasmin Moghbeli, 33, is a quality assurance and avionics officer for the Marine Corps' Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 in Yuma, Arizona.
  • Loral O'Hara, a 34-year-old research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, who calls Sugar Land, Texas, home.
  • Francisco Rubio, is a 41-year-old major, serving as a surgeon for the 3rd Battalion of the Army's 10th Special Forces Group. He earned a Doctorate of Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
  • Jessica Watkins, a 28-year-old postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where she collaborates on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory for the Curiosity rover. She has worked at NASA's Ames Research Center in northern California.
The astronaut candidates will return to Johnson in August to begin two years of training.
After completing two years of training, they could be assigned to any of a variety of missions - performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and flying on deep space missions on NASA's new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

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