On Monday, NASA introduced eight new astronaut candidates – four women and four men – who will “help the agency push the boundaries of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system,” NASA said.
“This is the first class in three years, and the 21st overall in our nation’s nearly 55-year journey in space,” said NASA Associate Administrator Lori Garver in a blog post. “From a near-record number of applicants, more than 6,100, we selected an extremely qualified class that represents a high degree of achievement and dedication to our nation’s future.”
This is the highest percentage of female candidates ever selected for a class.
“That was not by choice or by determination,” said Janet Kavandi, a veteran astronaut and the director of Flight Crew Operations for NASA, speaking during a Google Plus Hangout where the new astronauts were introduced. “We never determine how many people of each gender we’re going to take, but these were the most qualified people of the ones that we interviewed. They earned every bit of the right to be there.”
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Kavandi added that the new class is “an amazing group of people.”
You can watch a replay of the Hangout below:
The new astronauts candidates will undergo several years of training to become official astronauts. Right now NASA has 48 in the astronaut corps, which is about one-third the size it was at its peak a during the space shuttle heydays.
“With a smaller astronaut corps and fewer people in the office, now each person needs to have as diverse a background as possible” Kavandi said, “so we tried to work hard to make sure that the eight people we got had a broad spectrum of experiences, and I think you can tell that from their qualifications.”
NASA said the new astronauts will receive a wide array of technical training to prepare for missions to low-Earth orbit, an asteroid and Mars.
“These new space explorers asked to join NASA because they know we’re doing big, bold things here — developing missions to go farther into space than ever before,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “They’re excited about the science we’re doing on the International Space Station and our plan to launch from U.S. soil to there on spacecraft built by American companies. And they’re ready to help lead the first human mission to an asteroid and then on to Mars.”
The new astronaut candidates are:
Josh A. Cassada, Ph. D., 39, is originally from White Bear Lake, Minn. Cassada is a former naval aviator who holds an undergraduate degree from Albion College, and advanced degrees from the University of Rochester, N.Y. Cassada is a physicist by training and currently is serving as co-founder and Chief Technology Officer for Quantum Opus.
Victor J. Glover, 37, Lt. Commander, U.S. Navy, hails from Pomona, Calif., and Prosper, Texas. He is an F/A-18 pilot and graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. Glover holds degrees from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Air University and Naval Postgraduate School. He currently is serving as a Navy Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Congress.
Tyler N. Hague (Nick), 37, Lt. Colonel, U.S. Air Force, calls Hoxie, Kan., home. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, Edwards, Calif. Hague currently is supporting the Department of Defense as Deputy Chief of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.
Christina M. Hammock, 34, calls Jacksonville, N.C. home. Hammock holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C. She currently is serving as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Station Chief in American Samoa.
Nicole Aunapu Mann, 35, Major, U.S. Marine Corps, originally is from Penngrove, Calif. She is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Stanford (Calif.) University and the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Patuxent River, Md. Mann is an F/A 18 pilot, currently serving as an Integrated Product Team Lead at the U.S. Naval Air Station, Patuxent River.
Anne C. McClain, 34, Major, U.S. Army, lists her hometown as Spokane, Wash. She is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.; the University of Bath and the University of Bristol, both in the United Kingdom. McClain is an OH-58 helicopter pilot, and a recent graduate of U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River.
Jessica U. Meir, Ph.D., 35 is from Caribou, Maine. She is a graduate of Brown University, has an advanced degree from the International Space University, and earned her doctorate from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Meir currently is an Assistant Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
Andrew R. Morgan, M.D., 37, Major, U.S. Army, considers New Castle, Pa., home. Morgan is a graduate of The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and earned doctorate in medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md. He has experience as an emergency physician and flight surgeon for the Army special operations community, and currently is completing a sports medicine fellowship.
You can read more about each of the astronauts here.