Recently, NASA unveiled its newest class of astronauts. From out of nearly 20,000 eager applicants, just 12 were selected: five women and seven men. The number of applicants has never been approached this level of interested applicants. The last high was in 1978 with just 8,000 applicants. However, the 2017 astronaut candidates still have two years of grueling training ahead of them before they are considered full-fledged astronauts.
USA Today reported that the astronaut class includes “six military officers, two of them [being] doctors.” They range in age from 24 to 29 years old and come from across the U.S. According to USA Today, the 2017 NASA astronaut class are U.S. Air Force Lt Col. Raja Chari; Lt. Kayla Barron; Zena Cardman, marine biologist; Matthew Dominick, a naval test pilot; Bob Hines,a research pilot; Warren Hoburg, an assistant professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT ; Dr. Jonny Kim a former Navy SEAL; Robb Kulin, a SpaceX engineer; Jasmin Moghbeli, testing helicopters for the Marine Corps; Loral O’Hara, a research engineer; Dr. Francisco Rubio, doctor and Blackhawk helicopter pilot; and Jessica Watkins, an engineer who collaborated with the Mars Science Laboratory on the Curiosity rover. They will report to Houston in August to begin their training. Speaking to Bloomberg, NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said it made him “inadequate” when comparing resumes of the future astronauts.
Depending on the type of astronaut (commander, pilot, mission specialist or payload specialist), there are requirements. All NASA astronauts must be U.S. citizens. For the commander and pilot astronauts, they must have a degree in engineering, biology, physical science or mathematics; at least 1,000 hours as the pilot-in-command in a jet; and pass a NASA space physical. For the role of mission specialists, the astronaut must also have a degree in engineering, biology, physical science or mathematics; pass the NASA space physical, and must be between the height of five feet two inches and six feet two inches.
According to Space.com, the 2017 astronaut class will learn the systems at the International Space Station; learn how to spacewalk a the Johnson Space Center, and simulate docking spacecraft using a “giant robotic arm.” Because of NASA’s partnership with Russia’s federal space agency, the 2017 astronaut class will learn Russian and fly a supersonic T-38 jet. Flying the jet, Space.com reported, will help them prepare for the “rigors of spaceflight.”
Even after all this preparation, there is no guarantee that the astronauts will fly into space. Currently, there are 44 active astronauts. While they wait for their shot into space, they will be assigned to the Johnson Space Center’s Astronaut Office doing technical duty. In a press release from NASA, these technical duties include “supporting current missions” to “advising on the development of future spacecraft.”
By Cheryl Werber
Photo Courtesy NASA