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NASA names new astronaut candidates for space station and beyond

June 17, 2013

— NASA has named eight new astronaut candidates — four men and four women — who will begin training later this year for flights to the International Space Station and beyond.

The U.S. space agency on Monday (June 17) revealed the names and brief biographies of the scientists and military pilots chosen for its 2013 class of astronaut candidates — "ascans" for short. The selection, which was the result of an extensive year-and-a-half search, was made from the more than 6,000 applications received, the second largest response in NASA's history.

The new astronaut candidates are: Josh Cassada, Victor Glover, Tyler "Nick" Hague, Christina Hammock, Nicole Mann, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan.

The group, which comprises NASA's 21st astronaut class since 1959, will undergo training at spaceflight centers and remote locations around the globe to prepare for missions to low-Earth orbit, an asteroid and Mars.

"These new space explorers asked to join NASA because they know we're doing big, bold things here — developing missions to go farther into space than ever before," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who was a member of the ninth group of astronauts selected in 1980. "They're excited about the science we're doing on the International Space Station and our plan to launch from U.S. soil to there on spacecraft built by American companies."

"And they're ready to help lead the first human mission to an asteroid and then on to Mars," Bolden said.

Astronaut class of 2013. Click to view and enlarge video in a new pop-up window. (NASA)

NASA began recruiting for this class in November 2011. From May 2012 through January of this year, the 6,372 applicants were pared down through medical evaluations and interviews, leading to the finalists being determined in February.

The eight new candidates will report to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston in mid-August to begin a training and evaluation period that will last about two years. During which time, the ascans will participate in a basic training program, which is designed to develop the knowledge and skills required for formal mission training upon their being chosen for a flight into space.

Selection as an ascan does not ensure becoming a NASA astronaut, which requires the successful completion of the basic training program.

At current, NASA has 49 active astronauts as members of its corps. Russia, China, Canada, Japan and Europe (the European Space Agency) also maintain astronaut corps, which bring the worldwide count of active space travelers to more than 140.

"We have selected eight highly qualified individuals who have demonstrated impressive strengths academically, operationally and physically," Janet Kavandi, a member of the 15th class of astronauts (1994) and NASA's director of Flight Crew Operations at Johnson, said in a statement. "They have diverse backgrounds and skill sets that will contribute greatly to the existing astronaut corps."

"Based on their incredible experiences to date, I have every confidence that [the eight new astronaut candidates] will apply their combined expertise and talents to achieve great things for NASA and this country in the pursuit of human exploration," she added.

NASA chose its first astronaut class, the "original Mercury 7," in 1959. Since then, it has selected and trained 330 astronauts. Its largest classes, at 35 members each, were chosen in 1978 and 1996 (the latter, who were nicknamed "The Sardines" topped out at 44 including the international candidates who trained with them).

NASA's most recent class to graduate from basic training, "The Chumps," was named in 2009. Out of the nine who were selected, Michael Hopkins is slated to be the first to fly on a space station mission launching in September.


NASA's 2013 Astronaut Class

Josh A. Cassada, Ph. D., 39, is originally from White Bear Lake, Minn. Cassada is a former naval aviator who holds an undergraduate degree from Albion College, and advanced degrees from the University of Rochester, N.Y. Cassada is a physicist by training and currently is serving as co-founder and Chief Technology Officer for Quantum Opus.

Victor J. Glover, 37, Lt. Commander, U.S. Navy, hails from Pomona, Calif., and Prosper, Texas. He is an F/A-18 pilot and graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. Glover holds degrees from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Air University and Naval Postgraduate School. He currently is serving as a Navy Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Congress.

Tyler N. Hague (Nick), 37, Lt. Colonel, U.S. Air Force, calls Hoxie, Kan., home. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, Edwards, Calif. Hague currently is supporting the Department of Defense as Deputy Chief of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.

Christina M. Hammock, 4, calls Jacksonville, N.C. home. Hammock holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C. She currently is serving as National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Station Chief in American Samoa.

Nicole Aunapu Mann, 35, Major, U.S. Marine Corps, originally is from Penngrove, Calif. She is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Stanford (Calif.) University and the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Patuxent River, Md. Mann is an F/A 18 pilot, currently serving as an Integrated Product Team Lead at the U.S. Naval Air Station, Patuxent River.

Anne C. McClain, 34, Major, U.S. Army, lists her hometown as Spokane, Wash. She is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY; the University of Bath and the University of Bristol, both in the United Kingdom. McClain is an OH-58 helicopter pilot, and a recent graduate of U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River.

Jessica U. Meir, Ph.D., 35 is from Caribou, Maine. She is a graduate of Brown University, has an advanced degree from the International Space University, and earned her doctorate from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Meir currently is an Assistant Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

Andrew R. Morgan, M.D., 37, Major, U.S. Army, considers New Castle, Pa., home. Morgan is a graduate of The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and earned doctorate in medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md. He has experience as an emergency physician and flight surgeon for the Army special operations community, and currently is completing a sports medicine fellowship.

NASA selected eight scientists and military pilots, four men and four women, for its 2013 class of astronaut candidates. (NASA)

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