Reprinted with Permission of the Associated PressCAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA has eight new astronauts — its first new batch in four years.
Among the lucky candidates: the first female fighter pilot to become an astronaut in nearly two decades. Additionally, a female helicopter pilot (and WMA member) is also in the group. In fact, four of the eight selectees are women, the highest percentage of female astronaut candidates ever selected by NASA.
Monday's announcement came on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the launch of the first American woman in space, Sally Ride., who sadly passed away last summer.
The eight — all in their 30s — were chosen from more than 6,000 applications received early last year, the second largest number ever received. They will report for duty in August at Johnson Space Center in Houston and join 49 astronauts currently working at NASA. The number has dwindled since 2011 when the shuttle program was ended and several astronauts decided to seek work elsewhere rather than get in a lengthy line for relatively few long-term mission slots aboard the International Space Station.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said that these new candidates will help lead the first human mission to an asteroid in the 2020s, and then Mars, sometime in the following decade. They also may be among the first to fly to the International Space Station aboard a commercial spacecraft launched from the U.S. Russia currently ferries the astronauts.
"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," Bolden said in a statement.
The Class of 2013's Nicole Aunapu Mann, a major in the Marines, is an F/A 18 pilot serving at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Md. Army Maj. Anne McClain is a helicopter pilot, and the two other women, Christina Hammock and Jessica Meir, are scientists.
All four men have military backgrounds, including one who is a former emergency room physician, Dr. Andrew Morgan. The others are Josh Cassada, PhD. (a former Naval aviator), Navy Lt. Cmdr. Victor Glover, and Air Force Lt. Col. Tyler (Nick) Hague.
She deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in July 2007 and spent 15 months as a maintenance platoon leader and Squadron intelligence officer, flying 900 flight hours as pilot in command in the Kiowa Warrior. In 2009, she graduated from the Captain's Career Course (distinguished honor graduate) and was assigned to 1-14th Aviation Regiment at Fort Rucker as an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior instructor pilot and battalion operations officer, responsible for the daily operations of all AH-64D Apache and OH-58D Kiowa Warrior aircraft and flight training activities. During this time, she also earned a spot (for the second time) on the USA Rugby Women's National Team.
She took command of C Troop, 1-14th Aviation Regiment in 2010 and oversaw the undergraduate and graduate flight training of the Kiowa Warrior and continued with her true passion, flying and teaching new pilots in the tactics and techniques of being a Scout pilot.
She attended the Command and General Staff College Intermediate Level Education (ILE) and graduated in December 2011 as the distinguished honor graduate. She was selected for and is currently attending the US Naval Test Pilot School, only the third Army female to do so and the first in over 20 years.
She has 2,000 flight hours in 11 different aircraft types and is qualified in the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, C-12 King Air, UH-60 Blackhawk, and UH-72 Lakota.
Her badges include the Combat Action Badge, Army Senior Aviator Badge, and Air Assault Badge. Her awards include the Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal with Valor, Air Medal (x2), Army Commendation Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal with 2 campaign stars, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Army Achievement Medal (x3), Overseas Service Ribbon (x3) and the National Defense Service Medal.