Meet the NASA astronaut class of 2017

NASA named 12 new astronaut candidates in a ceremony at Johnson Space Center attended by Vice President Mike Pence, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and fellow astronauts.

The twelve were chosen from a record number of over 18,000 applicants, more than twice the standing record set in 1978.

The new astronauts represent a broad range of careers, with experiences marking them as qualified to lead the administration’s mission to explore deep space. NASA has not launched astronauts from American soil since the Shuttle Program ended in 2011, but current program developments include the agency’s Orion spacecraft and commercial crew contracts for launch to the International Space Station.

The astronaut candidates will return to Johnson Space Center in August to begin two years of training before officially joining the astronaut corps.

All twelve candidates spoke with the press in Houston to share their thoughts on being named to NASA’s newest class of astronauts and their astronaut ambitions.

Kayla Barron Richland, Washington

Lieutenant U.S. Navy

‘In the Navy I was a submarine warfare officer, living and working in confined spaces with limited resources in the harsh ocean environment. My experience parallels what astronauts are doing in the space station and what I’ll need to do in order to be successful in long duration, deep space exploration missions.’

Zena Cardman Williamsburg, Virginia

Graduate Research Fellow at Penn State

‘I’m looking forward to learning Russian. The chance to learn a new language as an adult is awesome. International collaboration and traveling abroad to learn from NASA partners is going to be exciting.’

Raja Chari Cedar Falls, Iowa

Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Air Force

‘I did two internships for NASA and that was a huge influence, it’s what reinforced for me that this was really a community that I want to be a part of. It’s just going to be an awesome future…’

Matthew Dominick Wheat Ridge, Colorado

Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy

‘It would be awesome to be the first person to do something new- to go to Mars or back to the Moon. But more importantly, it’s about helping to solve tough problems and moving forward with NASA as a team.’

Bob Hines Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Research pilot NASA JSC

‘I’m a tiny little cog in this giant space wheel, but that’s worth it.’

Warren Hoburg Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Assistant professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT

‘Throughout my career as an engineer I’ve learned to expect the unexpected, and that’s the very nature of discovery. We don’t know what we’re going to find, but it’s going to be really cool when we do and that’s what most excites me.’  

Jonny Kim Los Angeles, California

Resident physician Massachusetts General Hospital

‘In the Navy I worked in small teams with limited data where we leveraged each other’s strengths and weaknesses to complete a mission. Those are the most important experiences that I could have for my new career as an astronaut.’

Robb Kulin Anchorage, Alaska

Launch Chief Engineer SpaceX

‘I’ll ride on whatever spacecraft I can get on. I’m pretty confident in the processes as a whole to get us there safely.’

Jasmin Moghbeli Baldwin, New York

Major U.S. Marine Corps

‘The Marine Corps prepared me for this. They pulled me out of my comfort zone, pushed me to failure in order to train me to get back up, keep trying, keep pressing. It was a great organization to teach you about the crew concept.’

Loral O’Hara Sugar Land, Texas

Research Engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

‘There was an early involvement with NASA that I stuck with. Growing up in Houston I got to go on class field trips to Johnson Space Center, watch Shuttle debriefings, and take advantage of student program opportunities.’

Frank Rubio Miami, Florida

Battalion surgeon 3rd Battalion of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) U.S. Army

‘In the last 48 hours I’ve learned how cool it is to be a naval aviator, so I’m really looking forward to flying jets as part of my astronaut training.’

Jessica Watkins Lafayette, Colorado

Postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the CalTech

‘I’ve done four internships with NASA and all of those opportunities provided me with the experience that got me here. I was able to understand the culture of teamwork at NASA that makes it possible to accomplish the impossible.’

Interview responses have been edited and condensed for clarity and space.

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