NASA graduates its newest class of Astronauts

NASA graduates its newest class of Astronauts

NASA’s new class of astronauts – the first to graduate since the agency announced its Artemis program – appear on stage during their graduation ceremony at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Jan. 10, 2020. The class includes 11 NASA candidates, as well as two Canadian Space Agency (CSA) candidates, selected in 2017. They will join the active astronaut corps, beginning careers in exploration that may take them to the International Space Station, on missions to the Moon under the Artemis program, or someday, Mars. Pictured from left are: Kayla Barron of NASA, Zena Cardman of NASA, Raja Chari of NASA, Matthew Dominick of NASA, Bob Hines of NASA, Warren Hoburg of NASA, Jonny Kim of NASA, Joshua Kutryk of CSA, Jasmin Moghbeli of NASA, Loral O’Hara of NASA, Jessica Watkins of NASA, Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons of CSA, and Frank Rubio of NASA. Photo and Caption Credit: NASA

A very engaged audience of friends, family, program colleagues and political representatives came together at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) this morning, gathering to witness and celebrate the graduation of the 2017 NASA Astronaut Class.

The thirteen hard-working men and women, who have each been under training for just over two years, entered the auditorium as Astronaut Candidates (ASCANs), but were soon celebrated and individually recognized as becoming, “our latest astronaut.”

“Dependable, compassionate, intelligent, resilient and fierce” were the words shared by Jonny Kim, speaking about fellow NASA Astronaut Class of 2017 graduate Jasmin Moghbeli, as she was called to receive her silver astronaut pin from the Chief of the NASA Astronaut Office, Pat Forrester, an honor as this is a tangible symbol of achieving the status of mission-assignable crew.

Continuing, Kim shared that Moghbeli would be “the perfect crew mate I’d go into the void of space with.” This echoed similar expressions of faith, trust and admiration as members of the class shared introductory words about each graduate as they were being warmly received into the Astronaut’s Office by Forrester, Class Supervisor Jeremy Hansen, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, JSC Director Mark Geyer and JSC Deputy Director, Vanessa Wyche.

NASA is currently planning to send astronauts to the Moon under its “Artemis” program, which the astronauts presented today could play a big role in. Image Credit: NASA

Prior to the pins being awarded, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen was lauded for his performance and contribution in the role as Astronaut Class Supervisor, a first for a non-NASA astronaut. Forrester shared his rationale behind Hansen’s appointment, stating “We are very good at teaching people how to fly in space, but there is one other important component that is very important to me and that’s character. The person that gets to lead a brand new astronaut class is somebody that we trust to instill character in those individuals.”

A major theme throughout the ceremony was the fact that this class is graduating at just the perfect time to contribute to the success of the Artemis program, set to return humans to the lunar surface and orbit. It was noted that exciting opportunities await all members of the Astronaut Office, and that amazing accomplishments can be achieved even on one’s first flight, referring to Christina Koch’s inaugural and now record-breaking mission aboard the International Space Station, which is still underway.

During training, the candidates worked together in smaller groups of 3-4, as well as periodically as one large class. Speaking with SpaceFlight Insider prior to his graduation, CSA astronaut Joshua Kutryk shared that the key to employing the smaller, syndicate-sized groups was to “represent what might be a typical crew complement aboard station or aboard an Orion vehicle in the future.” When asked what his most memorable and exciting parts of training were, he responded enthusiastically. “The Microgravity flying, where we do parabolic flight training”, followed quickly with “all the training that we do in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory.” Both were highly memorable to him because they each allowed him to experience the anticipated physiological effects and experience of spaceflight – experiences that he and surely all of his fellow graduates, will hopefully enjoy soon.

Video courtesy of NASA


Sean Costello is a technology professional who also researches, writes about and speaks publicly on the inspiring lessons within international space flight program. Prior to joining SpaceFlight Insider in early 2014, Costello was a freelance photographer and correspondent covering shuttle-era Kennedy Space Center launches for various radio and print news organizations.

Not sure why there was a need for the cringeworthy Hollywood ceremony. But this new class has at least four potential ways of reaching space — something never available to any of their forerunners.
The only surprise to me was the news that NASA wants to recruit more astronauts next year.

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