NASA's 2009 Astronaut Candidate Class

The wait is finally over. NASA has announced a new crop of nine astronaut candidates ("ascans") to join the astronaut corps in Houston. Among them is friend of this blog Captain Jack Fischer, who has twice written guest blog posts on his astronaut interview experience and his passion for space. Congratulations to Jack and the other eight deserving selectees. I've excerpted descriptions of the new ascans from NASA's press release below:

Serena M. Auñón, 33, of League City, Texas; University of Texas Medical Branch-Wyle flight surgeon for NASA’s Space Shuttle, International Space Station and Constellation Programs; born in Indianapolis, Ind. Auñón holds degrees from The George Washington University, University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston, and UTMB. (Auñón's JSC bio.)

Jeanette J. Epps, 38, of Fairfax, Va.; technical intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency; born in Syracuse, N.Y. Epps holds degrees from LeMoyne College and the University of Maryland. (Epps' JSC bio.)

Jack D. Fischer, Major U.S. Air Force, 35, of Reston, Va.; test pilot; U.S. Air Force Strategic Policy intern (Joint Chiefs of Staff) at the Pentagon; born in Boulder, Colo. Fischer is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Fischer's JSC bio.)

Michael S. Hopkins, Lt. Colonel U.S. Air Force, 40, of Alexandria, Va.; special assistant to the Vice Chairman (Joint Chiefs of Staff) at the Pentagon; born in Lebanon, Mo. Hopkins holds degrees from the University of Illinois and Stanford University. (Hopkins' JSC bio.)

Kjell N. Lindgren, 36, of League City, Texas; University of Texas Medical Branch-Wyle flight surgeon for NASA’s Space Shuttle, International Space Station and Constellation Programs; born in Taipei, Taiwan. Lindgren has degrees from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado State University, University of Colorado, the University of Minnesota, and UTMB. (Lindgren's JSC bio.)

Kathleen (Kate) Rubins, 30, of Cambridge, Mass.; born in Farmington, Conn.; principal investigator and fellow, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT and conducts research trips to the Congo. Rubins has degrees from the University of California-San Diego and Stanford University. (Rubins' JSC bio.)

Scott D. Tingle, Commander U.S. Navy, 43, of Hollywood, Md.; born in Attleboro, Mass.; test pilot and Assistant Program Manager-Systems Engineering at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Tingle holds degrees from Southeastern Massachusetts University (now University of Massachusetts Dartmouth) and Purdue University. (Tingle's JSC bio.)

Mark T. Vande Hei, Lt. Colonel U.S. Army, 42, of El Lago, Texas; born in Falls Church, Va.; flight controller for the International Space Station at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, as part of U.S. Army NASA Detachment. Vande Hei is a graduate of Saint John’s University and Stanford University. (Vande Hei's JSC bio.)

Gregory R. (Reid) Wiseman, Lt. Commander U.S. Navy, 33, of Virginia Beach, Va.; born in Baltimore; test pilot; Department Head, Strike Fighter Squadron 103, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, based out of Oceana Virginia. Wiseman is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Johns Hopkins University. (Wiseman's JSC bio.)

Note how five of the nine are military pilots (plus one from CIA intelligence) and three are medical or biomedical doctors. No geologists, educators, or other fields were selected. With only nine ascans selected this time, NASA likely had to prioritize what type of people they wanted, and pilots and doctors rose to the top. This makes sense given the near term development of Constellation vehicles and the focus on ISS-based human factors research. Perhaps the next group chosen in a few years will be more geologically oriented for eventual trips to the Moon or Mars (I'm hoping!).

According to today's article, NASA's newest 9 recruits will report for duty in late August, and they will (at least in part) be jointly training with the 2 new Japanese, 2 new Canadian, and 6 new European astronauts. 9+2+2+6 = 19 new astronauts in the span of only a few months is impressive indeed!

I had sincerely hoped on having my astronaut statistics report ready to present by the time of this announcement, but FMARS preparations got in the way. Now that I'm in the arctic embarking upon a simulated Mars mission, I won't have time to complete that work until after I return. Check back here later in August or by early September. In the mean time, I hope you will enjoy following my adventure on FMARS! It's been a long and interesting road from the initial announcement in September 2007 to the application deadline in June 2008 to today. I hope everyone has enjoyed this blog on the process of becoming an astronaut.

Once again, congratulations to NASA's newest astronauts. I look forward to following you as you progress through your training. Please know that you are welcome and encouraged to submit entries on your experiences to this blog at any time.


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