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[b]From Space Camp to Space[/b]
[i]NASA selects two Space Camp grads for the astronaut corps[/i]
Could a Space Camp grad be the next person to step foot on the moon? It's possible! NASA has chosen two Space Camp graduates for their 2009 Astronaut Candidate Class.
Kathleen Rubins, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Serena Aunon, of League City, Texas, are among the nine newest members of the astronaut program. They were selected from over 3,500 applicants. Beginning with the original "Mercury Seven" astronauts, selected in 1959, NASA has chosen only 321 men and women for the astronaut program.
"It's great news," says Larry Capps, CEO of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, home of Space Camp. "What a tremendous honor for these young women to distinguish themselves this way. We can all be very proud of them," he adds.
Rubins, 30, has degrees from the University of California-San Diego and Stanford University. She will soon leave her job as a principal investigator and fellow at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT to begin her astronaut training.
Kate, as she's known to her friends, attended Space Academy in Huntsville in 1990. She was 12 and says while her friends were reading "Tiger Beat" magazine at the time, she was reading "Sky and Telescope" magazine. "I've always been interested in science and exploring our world, from microbes to the solar system," Rubins says.
Aunon, 33, has earned degrees from George Washington University, the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston and UTMB. Dr. Aunon currently works at the University of Texas Medical Branch-Wyle as a flight surgeon for NASA's Space Shuttle, International Space Station and Constellation Programs.
Serena attended Advanced Space Academy in Huntsville in 1992. She was 15 years old and already in the 11th grade. She says she knew she wanted to be astronaut "...when I saw my first shuttle launch as a kid in elementary school. Let's face it, the Shuttle is a wonderfully complex and beautiful vehicle. It's hard not to be inspired by its sheer power," she says.
But Rubins and Aunon will likely never have the chance to fly aboard the shuttle. The shuttle fleet is scheduled for retirement next year, about the same time they are scheduled to complete their initial astronaut training. Rubins and Aunon represent the future of the space program, the men and women who will return to the moon and help pave the way for even longer duration flights to Mars and eventually beyond.
"We have a sign downstairs that says, through these doors pass America's next generation of scientists, mathematicians and explorers," Capps says. He adds, "Kate and Serena not only represent that bold statement, but they also represent the dream we hold for America's youth. We couldn't be happier for them."
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