Out of 18,300 Applicants, NASA picks 12 new astronauts

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – NASA has chosen 12 new astronauts from its biggest pool of applicants ever.

Vice President Mike Pence attended Wednesday’s announcement of the Astronaut Class of 2017 at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

More than 18,300 people threw their hats into the space ring.

That’s more than double the previous record of 8,000, set in 1978 when the space shuttles were close to launching.

The seven men and five women selected Wednesday will join 44 astronauts already in the NASA corps. U.S. astronauts haven’t launched from home soil since 2011.

But that could change next year. After two years of training, the newbies may end up riding commercial rockets to the International Space Station, or flying beyond the moon in NASA’s Orion spacecraft.

Their ultimate destination could be Mars.

NASA’s 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class stopped for a selfie while getting fitted for flight suits at Ellington Airport near NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston

The new astronaut candidates are:

— Kayla Barron, hometown: Richland, Washington; current residence: Annapolis, Maryland; U.S. Naval Academy graduate, master’s in nuclear engineering from the University of Cambridge, England; currently serves as Flag Aide for the Superintendent of the Naval Academy

 Zena Cardman, Williamsburg, Virginia; current residence: State College, Pennsylvania; National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow with a master’s degree in marine science; currently completing a doctorate in geoscience at Pennsylvania State University

— Air Force Lt. Col. Raja Chari, Cedar Falls, Iowa; current residence: Lancaster, California; U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, U.S. Navy test pilot school graduate; master’s in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron

— Navy Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Dominick, Wheat Ridge, Colorado; current residence: stationed in Japan; Navy test pilot school, master’s in systems engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School; Navy strike flighter squadron 115

— Bob Hines, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; current residence: Houston; NASA research pilot at the Johnson Space Center; U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School graduate; master’s in aerospace engineering from the University of Alabama

— Warren “Woody” Hoburg, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; current residence: Boston; assistant professor in aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California-Berkeley

— Jonathan Kim, Los Angeles, California; current residence: Newtron, Massachusetts; resident physician for Partners Healthcare at Massachusetts General Hospital; active duty reserve with the U.S. Navy; doctorate of medicine from Harvard

— Robb Kulin, Anchorage, Alaska; current residence: Redondo Beach, California; senior manager for flight reliability at SpaceX; masters in materials science; Ph.D. in engineering from the University of California-San Diego

Marine Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli, Baldwin, New York; current residence: Yuma, Arizona; quality assurance and avionics officer; master’s in aerospace engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School; graduate of the U.S. Navy Test Pilot school

— Loral O’Hara, Sugar Land, Texas; current residence: Woods Hole, Massachusetts; research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; master’s degree in propulsion and fluid Dynamics from Purdue University

— U.S. Army Maj. Francisco Rubio, Miami, Florida; current residence: Colorado Springs, Colorado; surgeon for the 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (airborne); U.S. Military Academy graduate; doctorate of medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

— Jessica Watkins, Lafayette, Colorado; current residence: Pasadena, California; post-doctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology; Ph.D. in geology from the University of California-Los Angeles

NASA plans to operate the International Space Station through at least 2024.

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