NASA just picked 12 new astronauts out of 18,300 applicants, and they’re all awesome
NASA just announced its newest class of astronauts, a crew of Americans from around the country who are entering the space agency at a time of transition.
The 12 new astronauts could have the chance to fly to orbit aboard privately built space capsules, and launch to deep space destinations like the moon or Mars aboard NASA-made ships that are still in development today.
In total, NASA chose these 12 people from the record number of 18,300 applications they received, far more than the previous record of 8,000 set in 1978, NASA said.
The new astronaut candidates hail from all across the country and have a diverse variety of backgrounds in the sciences, military, and even private spaceflight.
The new 12 are about to embark on a two-year training journey that will have them learning the ropes of one of the most challenging jobs in the world. But before they do, let’s get to know them a bit better.
Here are some of our favorite quick facts about NASA’s newest group of astronauts (in alphabetical order):
Kayla Barron is from Richland, Washington and holds a Master’s degree in nuclear engineering. Barron was part of the first group of women to serve in the Navy’s submarine community.
“She enjoys hiking, backpacking, running and reading,” NASA said.
Same, Kayla. Same.
Zena Cardman is a biologist who focuses on studying microorganisms, a background that could be a real boon if NASA decides to go microbe hunting on any distant worlds in the not-too-distant future.
Cardman has spent time in Antarctica and has said that her time in that isolated location could help her during spaceflight.
Also, Cardman raises backyard chickens!
Hailing from Iowa, Raja Chari is a Colonel select in the Air Force and has logged more than 2,000 hours of flight time in various fast-moving fighter jets.
Chari also flew F-15E combat missions as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Matthew Dominick is a naval aviator and has more than 1,600 hours of flight time to his name, with 400 carrier-arrested landings.
Dominick was on a ship off the coast of Japan when he found out that he was selected as a NASA astronaut in May.
According to Dominick, it was the middle of the night his time and he had to try to call the U.S. multiple times because of spotty service. Eventually he got through and received the good news.
Like Dominick, Bob Hines also has a somewhat unorthodox tale of how he found out he was accepted to the astronaut class.
Hines is actually a research pilot at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the home of the Astronaut Corps, so he was told the good news in person just after a surprise flight with current NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy.
Warren “Woody” Hoburg
Woody Hoburg is an assistant professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT.
Hoburg is also a private pilot with “extensive wilderness search and rescue experience,” NASA said.
He’s also a rock climber and mountaineer, so who knows, that could serve him well on Mars or the moon one day.
Dr. Jonny Kim is a resident physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and has experience in the Navy as well.
“The California native trained and operated as a Navy SEAL, completing more than 100 combat operations and earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat ‘V,'” NASA said.
Robb Kulin is a SpaceX engineer, which puts him in a kind of funny position as an astronaut candidate. SpaceX — Elon Musk’s space company — is actually in the process of building a capsule that could take Kulin and his fellow astronauts to the International Space Station in the next few years.
That means that Kulin might be riding on a spacecraft or launcher that he helped build before arriving at NASA.
Kulin’s experience isn’t just limited to SpaceX, however.
“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,” NASA said.
Jasmin Moghbeli knew she wanted to be an astronaut from the time she was in sixth grade and did a report on Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to fly to space.
Moghbeli also graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and has more than 1,600 hours of flight time plus 150 combat missions, NASA said.
Loral O’Hara is an engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, but she will be returning to her hometown of Houston as an astronaut candidate.
O’Hara grew up near Johnson Space Center, where she took part in student experiments sponsored by NASA.
“In her free time, she enjoys working in the garage, traveling, surfing, diving, flying, sailing, skiing, hiking/orienteering, caving, reading and painting,” NASA said.
Dr. Frank Rubio is a Major in the U.S. Army as well as a flight surgeon and physician.
“Prior to attending medical school, he served as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot and flew more than 1,100 hours, including more than 600 hours of combat and imminent danger time during deployments to Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq,” NASA said.
Jessica Watkins is no stranger to NASA.
She works as a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, but as a graduate student, Watkins worked with the Curiosity rover team and NEOWISE — an asteroid-hunting mission.
Watkins also played rugby on Stanford University’s team, and the national team, and she “enjoys soccer, rock climbing, skiing and creative writing,” according to NASA.