After a search an 18-month search,eight astronauts have been selected to train to go into space.
NASA introduced the 2013 Astronaut Candidate Class Thursday the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
The new astronauts spoke at the Moving Beyond Earth gallery about their plans. They encouraged the audience of elementary and middle school students to study science,technology,engineering and mathematics.
“I hung my space boots about three and a half years ago. … My job now is to get these kids inspired using the assets and resources NASA has to get them to go into STEM fields,” Leland Melvin,a former astronaut and NASA’s associate administrator for education,said. “The administration is looking at growing the number of STEM graduates by one million in the next 10 years.”
Presenting the astronauts and having them speak to 170 kids from five different schools in the Washington area is part of Melvin’s and NASA’s effort to increase interest in STEM career fields.
“Every aspect of our lives has really changed,” Jessica Meir,assistant professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School,said. “Every morning,we wake up and feel like we have to pinch ourselves to think,‘Could this dream that I’ve had since I was 5 years old,how could it have actually come true.’”
The candidates were selected from a pile of 6,100 applications.
“You have to mentally be crazy enough to want to do it,” Christina Hammock,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration station chief in American Samoa,said. “They do put us through some psychological tests and some physical fitness tests,but there are no strict absolute requirements.”
“One of the toughest things we are doing is learning how to speak Russian,” Air Force Lt. Col. Tyler Hague,said. “We are also learning how to work together as a group. … We are just getting ready to start learning how to spacewalk.”
Their training began in August at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and will continue for the next 18 months.
Their training is very demanding both physically and mentally,but Army Maj. Andrew Morgan said the training is definitely not the hardest part.
“We all have families,so I think that for all of us,that’s going to be one of the hardest parts,” Morgan said.
Mastracchio and Hopkins took questions from audience and gave a quick tour of the laboratory where they are conducting research. The two astronauts even performed acrobatic tricks.
The astronaut class shared inspirational stories to motivate the students.
“The key to achieve whatever you want to achieve … is to go and get your dreams. Your dreams aren’t going to come to you,and they are not going to be in your comfort zone,” Army Maj. Anne McClain,said. “That journey is really scary.”
McClain said that when she applied to the program she felt like she did when she was 18 years old and leaving home to attend college. She said it was a similar fear,but she had to face it to overcome it.
“The key is that you can’t give up. It doesn’t matter what gender you are,what background you have,or where you live,” McClain said. “Don’t stop moving forward. Don’t self-eliminate before you have tried.”
The future space missions for the astronauts remain unknown,but Melvin said that the mission to Mars is difficult to estimate. He said that it all depends on their training and the construction of the shuttle in which they will travel.
The new astronaut trainees are:
- Lt. Cdr. Josh A. Cassada,39,White Bear Lake,Minn.,a naval aviator
- Lt. Cdr. Victor J. Glover,37,Pomona,Calif.,a Navy test pilot
- Lt. Col. Tyler N. Hague,37,Hoxie,Kan.,an Air Force member of the team to combat IEDs
- Christina M. Hammock,34,Jacksonville,N.C.,NOAA station chief in American Samoa
- Maj. Nicole Aunapu Mann,35,Penngrove,Calif.,a Marine Corps pilot
- Maj. Anne C. McClain,34,Spokane,Wash.,an Army helicopter pilot and test pilot
- Maj. Andrew R. Morgan,37,New Castle,Pa.,an Army flight surgeon
- Jessica U. Meir,assistant professor of anesthesia at Havard Medical School,35,Caribou,Maine
Reach reporter Alejandro Alba at [email protected] or 202-326-9866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.