The announcement included a video (2 min 25 sec) from the tour and interviews with ASCANs Jack Fischer (who has previously been a guest author on this blog here and here) and Reid Wiseman. Near the end of the video, Wiseman sums up the ASCAN life:
It's awesome so far. Absolutely fantastic. Way better than I had imagined. - Reid Wiseman
Duane Ross also contributed to the new release. He said that between now and May 2011, the ASCANs will receive 39 weeks of training that includes ISS systems, robotics, EVAs, flights, and Russian. They'll have time to learn Russian since they no longer must devote 54 weeks for Space Shuttle training.
I found it interesting that NASA counts the 2009 class as 14 ASCANs rather than 9. The JSC ASCAN Bio page also lists 14 new astronauts in the 2009 class. This is because they're including in the count the 2 Canadian and 3 Japanese ASCANs selected in 2009 (but not the 6 Europeans). I previously reported that JAXA had chosen two new astronauts, but apparently JAXA decided to add a third ASCAN Norishige Kanai, M.D. to their ranks earlier this month. This brings the grand total to 20 new 2009 ASCANs (9 NASA, 6 ESA, 3 JAXA, 2 CSA), 14 of whom are training directly with NASA.
Will we see more press releases during the 2009-2011 ASCAN training period? I hope so. After all, NASA's 'Behind the Scenes' website maintained an excellent 2004 ASCAN training journal, including lots of photos, and a feature titled "The Making of an Astronaut". NASA should continue that tradition.
View the original NASA Langley story here.
26 September Update: Beth Beck wrote an excellent blog post titled Space Invaders in Nation’s Capitol that offers further insight into the ASCAN life. I strongly recommend readers surf on over to her site and read the post, especially the "Editorial comments" section where she gives her two cents on what astronauts should be doing as far as outreach and PR are concerned. I agree with her 100% that the Astronaut Office would be well-served to embrace social networks and keep the public fully engaged in the lives of astronauts by regularly using them.