NASA Administrator Charles Bolden greeted eight new astronaut candidates at the Johnson Space Center in Houston on Tuesday, the first of their profession to join the space agency in four years.
The four men and four women will train for two years at NASA’s Johnson Space Center before they become eligible for flight assignments aboard the International Space Station and presumably one of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program orbital transportation partner vehicles or the new Orion/Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle/Space Launch System. The latter is under development to startU. S.explorers and their global partners on missions of deep space destinations.
“These next generation of American astronauts are among those who will have opportunities to on new commercial space transportation systems that are now under development,” said Bolden during a greeting ceremony at Johnson. “More importantly, they will be among those who plan and perhaps carry out the first human missions to an asteroid and on to Mars.”
President Obama directed NASA to work towards a U. S. human mission to an asteroid by 2025 and an initial human voyage to the Martian environs a decade later.
“I have a fairly diverse background and would like to think the unifying theme has been discovery on the frontier, which is why I’m so excited to be part of the space program,” explained Christina Hammock. Hammock joined NASA’s 2013 astronaut class from NOAA where she was a scientist and manager. “NASA, in my opinion, is an organization whose over arching goal is about as important and fundamental as you can get, which is to move us all forward.”
Hammock was flanked in Houston by astronaut classmates Josh Cassandra and Victor Glover, a pair of U. S. Navy test pilots; Tyler “Nick” Hague, a U. S. Air Force flight test engineer; Nicole Aunapu Mann, a U. S. Marine Corps test pilot; Anne McClain and Dr. Andrew Morgan, a U. S. Army test pilot and flight surgeon; and Jessica Meir, a marine biologist.
They were chosen from more than 6,000 applicants and navigated a 1 1/2 year selection process.
U. S.space exploration plans are somewhat in doubt, as some in Congress favor a lunar base as NASA’s next goal. The future of the six person space station, which has been permanently staffed byU. S.and Russian astronauts since late 2000, is uncertain after 2020. Lawmakers in the U. S. House and Senate are currently in disagreement over NASA’s budget for the coming years.
That notes of uncertainty didn’t seem to matter to the newest American astronauts.
“I’ll be happy to fly anywhere they sendme.” said Hague.
Currently, the space agency counts 47 astronauts, 11 of them women. The total has been slipping since reaching a high of 149 a decade ago, when NASA was launching a half dozen or so shuttle mission and 30 to 35 astronauts annually.
The shuttle fleet was retired two years ago, and NASA now trains and sends fourU. S. astronauts to the space station annually. Russian spacecraft have replaced theU. S.shuttle as the means of launching and landing them.
Under current projections, that may change in 2017, when U. S. commercial launch companies are expected to take over orbital space operations.
Training for the eight 2013 astronaut candidates will begin with survival training in Maine next week. Those without military flight experience will receive an introduction from the U. S. Navy inFlorida, their key to training in NASA’s T-38 fleet.
Then, the new astronauts will be expected to learn all they can about the space station at the Johnson Space Center.