NASA on Monday introduced ten new astronauts to training, including a firefighter-turned-Harvard professor, a former US team cyclist, and a fighter pilot.
The class, chosen from more than 12,000 applicants, will begin their two-year training in January at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
“We’re going back to the moon, we’re going to Mars, and today we’re welcoming 10 new explorers,” said Bill Nelson, president of NASA.
The lucky ten, aged between 32 and 45, will train for spacewalks, develop robotics skills, learn how to operate and maintain the International Space Station (ISS) but also speak Russian, in order to communicate with their peers.
Once their training is complete, they will be assigned missions to the International Space Station, or further into space, particularly as part of NASA’s planned return to the Moon later this decade, with the Artemis mission.
This attractive training program was open to Americans who had passed an online test and earned a master’s degree in a field related to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics – a new standard. A medical certificate or pilot program has also been accepted.
“I was interested in a career in astronauts from a young age,” said Jessica Wittner, 38, a lieutenant in the US Navy who is a test pilot and flight engineer.
“I was that little girl who played with rockets in the garden and loved the science lessons.”
Other future astronauts include Nicole Ayers, one of the only women to fly an F-22 fighter, or Christopher Williams, a 38-year-old professor of medical physics at the prestigious Harvard University.
U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Anil Menon, 45, was previously the first medic on the SpaceX flight.
Born to parents from India and Ukraine, he was involved in relief teams sent in after the 2010 Haiti earthquake or the 2015 earthquake in Nepal.
Another class member, Christina Birch, 35, has degrees in mathematics, biochemistry, and molecular chemistry, as well as a PhD in biological engineering from the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
She gave up her research career to join the US track cycling team, including qualifying for the Olympics.
The former NASA class graduated in 2017. Two of its members, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, are currently aboard the International Space Station.
“Evil thinker. Music scholar. Hipster-friendly communicator. Bacon geek. Amateur internet enthusiast. Introvert.”