NASA just graduated its newest class of astronauts. Out of the over 18,300 applicants from all around the United States, the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico, there are the 12 who were selected. For those doing the math, that puts the odds of being selected at less than 1 in 1,500. 2017's class is full of incredibly talented people with backgrounds ranging from engineering, the Navy, the Marines, to geoscience. One of the most exciting parts? Roughly half of them are women!
They join a group of only 350 who have been chosen to become astronauts since the beginning of the space program in 1959, but they're not off to outer space just yet. Before they can become eligible to go on a mission to the International Space Station, they will report to the Johnson Space Center in Houston in August for a training program that lasts two years.
Out of the very select few who made the cut, here is a bit about the five women joining the ranks of NASA.
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Loral O’Hara is already an employee at NASA. The 34-year-old engineer earned a spot in NASA's KC-135 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program. This program enables new researchers to run microgravity experiments. Before that, she was an intern at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge where she spent a summer in Maryland as a research associate for Goddard Space Flight Center. Currently, she is developing ways to study extreme environments at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
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Jessica Watkins may be a new astronaut, but she isn't new to space exploration. Already exploring Mars as part of the JPL team that operates the Curiosity rover, the Stanford graduate enjoys a rich life outside of work. With a Ph.D. from UCLA and a postdoctorate from Caltech working to discover Mars' geological history, Watkins also writes short stories, flies planes, and plays rugby.
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Jasmin Moghbeli tests H-1 helicopters as a major in the Marines. Based in Arizona, she has accumulated more than 1,600 hours of flight time which includes 150 combat missions. A graduate of MIT, the Naval Postgraduate School, AND the Naval Test Pilot School, she is originally from Baldwin, NY; though she was born in Germany.
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Kayla Barron has a master's degree from the University of Cambridge in nuclear engineering where she was a Gates Cambridge Scholar. Originally from Richland, WA; the 29-year-old is also a naval lieutenant. As a submarine warfare officer, she was one of the first women to serve on a Navy submarine. Before joining NASA, she worked at the U.S. Naval Academy as a right-hand-woman to the school's superintendent.
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Zena Cardman, also 29, worked at the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research station in Antartica studying extremophiles, which are the organisms that live under some of the most extreme conditions on Earth. She is currently doing doctoral research at Penn State which involves cave slime in the hopes of earning her Ph.D. in geoscience.