VP Mike Pence welcomes NASA’s 12 new astronaut candidates
HOUSTON — With U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on hand and providing comments during the ceremony, NASA announced the 2017 class of astronauts. The agency selected 12 individuals out of more than 18,000 applicants.
Choosing “the right stuff”
NASA’s standards for selecting astronauts are pretty high. Commander and pilot astronauts must have a bachelor’s (or preferably higher) degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics; at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft, with flight test experience being highly desirable; and the ability to pass a NASA space physical which includes Distant visual acuity: 20/100 or better uncorrected, correctable to 20/20 each eye, blood pressure: 140/90 measured in a sitting position, and height between 62 and 75 inches (157 and 190 centimeters).
Representatives for the space agency consider this latest class to help provide a “shot in the arm” in terms of energy and enthusiasm to NASA’s Astronaut Corps.
Payload and mission specialists have similar physical requirements but don’t need to have the piloting background. Instead, a (again, preferably advanced) science or engineering degree must be followed by at least three years of related professional experience. The height requirements for payload and mission specialists are also broader: between 58.5 and 76 inches (148 and 193 centimeters).
Who was selected?
The individuals selected this year include the following:
- Kayla Barron – A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering as well as a master’s degree in nuclear engineering Barron from the University of Cambridge, Barron is a native of Washington state. She likes to hike, backpack, and read.
- Zena Cardman – A native of Virginia, Cardman has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in marine sciences from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her research has focused on microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep-sea sediments – something that could prove useful if she ever travels to Mars. Cardman is also an outdoors person, she enjoys canoeing, caving, flying gliders – and raising backyard chickens!
- Raja Chari – Chari is an Iowa native and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1999 with bachelor’s degrees in astronautical engineering and engineering science. He continued on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. He has accumulated more than 2,000 hours of flight time in the F-35, F-15, F-16, and F-18 including F-15E combat missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
- Matthew Dominick – This Colorado native earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of San Diego and a master’s degree in systems engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He graduated from U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. He has more than 1,600 hours of flight time in 28 aircraft, 400 carrier-arrested landings, and 61 combat missions.
- Bob Hines – Hines is a Pennsylvania native and earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Boston University. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, where he earned a master’s degree in flight test engineering. He continued on to earn a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Alabama. During the last five years, he has served as a research pilot at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
- Warren Hoburg – Nicknamed “Woody”, this Pennsylvania native earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkley. He is an avid rock climber, mountaineer, and pilot.
- Jonny Kim – This California native trained and operated as a Navy SEAL, completing more than 100 combat operations and earning a Silver Star and a Bronze Star with Combat “V”. Afterward, he went on to complete a degree in mathematics at the University of San Diego and a Doctor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. His interests include spending time with his family, volunteering with non-profit organizations, academic mentoring, working out, and learning new skills.
- Robb Kulin – Kulin is an Alaska native and earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Denver, before going on to complete a master’s degree in materials science and a doctorate in engineering at the University of California, San Diego. He is a private pilot and also enjoys playing piano, photography, packrafting, running, cycling, backcountry skiing, and SCUBA diving.
- Jasmin Moghbeli – This New York native earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering with information technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed by a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. Moghbeli is also a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and has accumulated more than 1,600 hours of flight time and 150 combat missions.
- Loral O’Hara – This Texas native earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Purdue University. In her free time, she enjoys working in the garage, traveling, surfing, diving, flying, sailing, skiing, hiking/orienteering, caving, reading, and painting.
- Frank Rubio – Rubio is a Florida native and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and earned a Doctor of Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He is a board certified family physician and flight surgeon. At the time of his selection, he was serving in the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
- Jessica Watkins – This Colorado native earned a bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences at Stanford University and a doctorate in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She enjoys soccer, rock climbing, skiing, and creative writing.
Once on the job, the new astronaut corps members will complete two years of training before joining the pool of 44 active astronauts currently eligible for spaceflight assignments. The new astronauts could be assigned to missions conducting research on the International Space Station, participating in the Commercial Crew Program, and launching on deep space missions on the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
As noted, the U.S. vice president was on hand and detailed the efforts of the Trump administration to have this latest class of astronaut candidates to inspire future generations.
“These are 12 men and women whose personal excellence and whose personal courage will carry our nation to even greater heights of discovery and who I know will inspire our children and our grandchildren every bit as much as your forebears have done so in this storied American program,” Pence said. “And to this newest class of astronauts, it’s my honor to bring the sincere congratulations of the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. Your president is proud of you, and so am I.”
Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.