“For more than 50 years now…the Johnson Space Center has been the home of America’s spaceflight, and it will be your new home,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told the new candidates as he welcomed them.
“They not only have the right stuff…they represent the full tapestry of America,” Bolden said. “These next generation of explorers will be among those who plan and carry out the first human missions to an asteroid or on to Mars. Their journey begins now, and the nation will be right beside them reaching for the stars.”
The astronaut candidates are Josh A. Cassada and Victor J. Glover, both lieutenant commanders in the U.S. Navy; Tyler N. “Nick” Hague, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force; Christina M. Hammock; Nicole Aunapu Mann, a major in the U.S. Marine Corps; Anne C. McClain and Andrew R. Morgan, both majors in the U.S. Army; and Jessica U. Meir.
They were selected from more than 6,100 applicants through a rigorous process. The first call for applications went out almost a year and a half ago, and NASA selected the top 120 candidates and brought them to the Johnson Space Center for interviews and evaluations. The selection board chose the top 49 candidates from that pool and conducted even more tests and evaluations. From that group, the eight were selected.
But that was just the beginning. Their training, which will last for two years, has already started in Houston. The candidates will focus on a variety of technical training activities to prepare for missions that will help the agency push the boundaries of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system. Many of them are still in the process of moving their families to their new hometown.
“Folks often wonder what they’ve signed up for after we get them to Houston,” said Bob Behnken, NASA chief astronaut. “The training for this group in the near term will focus on the space station and understanding the operations on board. These candidates will all fill support roles for station crews that will be flying. They also will receive T-38 training and will get some aviation background under their belt. We will also visit the NASA centers around the country to understand all the things that go into what makes NASA what it is.”
Many of the media present asked the astronaut candidates what had inspired them to become astronauts.
“I had a science teacher in the fifth grade, and he told me that I’d make a good engineer,” Glover said. “It’s all because of that day when Mr. Hargrove told me that and had a belief in me.”
“When I was in fourth grade, we lived in San Antonio. We had to write about famous Texans,” Morgan said. “I wrote to Apollo astronaut Alan Bean, and I actually received a letter back from him. I was convinced that was my acceptance as an astronaut candidate.”
The astronaut candidates also spoke directly to young students who may be considering their future paths.
“None of us would be sitting here without the mentors we had growing up,” McClain said. “We all took different paths to get here. Find something you are passionate about, something you enjoy doing and something you will be very satisfied with. Try to become the top of your field. Don’t think about what you are accomplishing but how you are accomplishing it,” McClain said.
“Set a goal and figure out the steps you need to get there,” Hague said. “Keep working hard and don’t take no for an answer.”
Bolden also spoke about the updated Global Exploration Roadmap (GER), released publicly Tuesday. The roadmap reflects the work of 12 space agencies of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group. It highlights the international space community’s shared interest in pursuing deep space exploration and reflects the degree of international cooperation on a unified deep space exploration strategic roadmap.