The latest batch of graduating astronauts from NASA was honoured in a public ceremony in Houston. This group of astronauts were selected from among 18,000 applicants and the group is gender-balanced and diverse. There are 6 women and 7 men in the group who belongs to different professional backgrounds such as pilots, engineers, doctors and scientists. The students are qualified for missions like Americas return to the Moon and also eventually to Mars.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine says that “ They are best if the best, highly qualified and very diverse and they represent all of America”.
The group known as turtles took turns to accept their silver astronaut badge by coming to the podium. There are five coloured people in the class including the Iran-American fighter pilot Jasmin Moghbeli who flew helicopter combat missions in Afghanistan and is also an MIT graduate. Another candidate is a geologist Jessica Watkins who is one among the handful of black women to complete the program.
The silver pins are handed over as a tradition since 1959 and once they complete their first space mission, golden pins are awarded.
Group was selected in 2017 and they completed the training for spacewalking in NASA’s underwater neutral buoyancy lab, piloting T-38 training jet and systems of the international space station, robotics and Russian language lessons.
NASA had announced the Artemis 3 moon mission and this batch had, as a part of their training, studying the building blocks of the program.
NASA’s space missions had previously been dominated by white men and the diversity in the current group is a huge contrast to the previous ones. The group includes an Indian- American airforce Colonel and Aeronautical engineer Raja Chari, Frank Rubio who is a medical doctor and Blackhawk pilot. Johnny Kim, a decorated Navy SEAL and emergency physician who also holds a doctorate degree from Harvard in Medicine and a degree in mathematics.
Kim told that “when I heard about possibly being a NASA astronaut, I thought that was a platform like no other where I could leave a huge impact on the next generation and also contribute to the nation’s space exploration”.
Moghbeli said that she had faced certain difficulties when she decided to join the military after graduating from MIT. There will always be people out there who doubt you, she said.
The CSA’s new astronauts are, Joshua Kutryk, Royal Canadian Airforce lieutenant colonel and Jennifer Sidey Gibbons who has a doctorate in engineering from the University of Cambridge.
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Source – NASA Blog