Astronauts land moon assignment

Six of the 18 astronauts named to the Artemis Team graduated from the prestigious naval aviation program in Patuxent River, Maryland, which is also the designated test pilot school for the U.S. Army. Nearly 100 graduates have gone on to become astronauts, according to the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School website, probably including the six future moon-walkers chosen for the Artemis program, since they were all previously chosen to be NASA astronauts.

Flight assignments for the nine men and nine women chosen for the Artemis Team will be announced later, the agency noted, so it’s not yet clear who among this group of 18 stands to become the first woman or the next man to set foot on the moon.

“We are incredibly grateful for the president and vice president’s support of the Artemis program, as well as the bipartisan support for all of NASA’s science, aeronautics research, technology development, and human exploration goals,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, in a December 9 news release.

Bridenstine noted additional astronauts will be selected.

“This is the first cadre of our Artemis astronauts,” Bridenstine said during a meeting of the National Space Council at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “I want to be clear, there’s going to be more.”

The first Artemis flight with a crew aboard is slated for 2023, and NASA plans to use a strategy similar to the Apollo program, which began with a series of flights orbiting Earth, and made the first lunar flyby with  Apollo 8 in 1968. The first lunar landing followed in 1969, with Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins etching their names into history—thanks in no small part to solid pilot skills.

The next lunar landing is planned in 2024, and these are the first 18 contenders for that Artemis 3 mission:

Joseph Acaba has logged 306 days in space and holds a bachelor’s degree in geology, as well as master’s degrees in geology and education. He taught math and science at the middle- and high-school levels before joining NASA.

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kayla Barron earned a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering, and was among the first class of women commissioned into U.S. Navy submarine service.

U.S. Air Force Col. Raja Chari earned a bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics. Chari is one of six Artemis team members who have graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

Decorated U.S. Navy pilot Matthew Dominick was leading a squadron of F/A–18E Super Hornets aboard the USS Ronald Reagan when he was selected as an astronaut candidate in 2017. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in systems engineering, and also graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. He has logged more than 1,600 hours flying 28 aircraft, with 400 carrier landings and 61 combat missions.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Victor Glover earned a bachelor’s degree in general engineering and master’s degrees in flight test engineering, systems engineering, and military operational art and science. He is currently serving as an Expedition 64 flight engineer aboard the International Space Station.

Warren Hoburg holds a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics, and a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science. He was an assistant professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a seasonal member of the Yosemite Search and Rescue team before joining NASA.

Dr. Jonny Kim enlisted in the U.S. Navy out of high school and became a SEAL, before going back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree in math, followed by a doctorate of medicine.

Christina Hammock Koch holds the record for longest single spaceflight by a woman. A Jacksonville, North Carolina, native, she earned bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and physics, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering.

Dr. Kjell Lindgren has logged 141 days in space and performed two spacewalks. Born in Taiwan, he holds a bachelor’s degree in biology, a master’s degree in cardiovascular physiology and a doctorate of medicine. He previously served as a flight surgeon before becoming an astronaut.

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Nicole A. Mann is currently training as pilot for the crew flight test of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. The California native holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering. Mann is among the six Artemis Team astronauts who graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Anne McClain has spent 204 days in space and conducted two spacewalks. McClain graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School as a helicopter test pilot. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical/aeronautical engineering, and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering and international relations.

Jessica Meir earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, a master’s degree in space studies, and a doctorate in marine biology on her way to becoming a NASA astronaut in 2013. She has since performed three spacewalks during her 205 days in space. 

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering. She also graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, and flew helicopters before joining the astronaut corps in 2017.

Kate Rubins is currently on her second flight aboard the International Space Station. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology, a doctorate in cancer biology, and the distinction of being the first person to sequence DNA in space. 

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Frank Rubio earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a doctorate of medicine. He served as both a UH–60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot and a flight surgeon in the Army before joining NASA.

U.S. Navy Capt. Scott Tingle has spent 168 days in space and performed one spacewalk. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, and also graduated from the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School.

Jessica Watkins received a bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences, and a doctorate in geology. Prior to her selection as a NASA astronaut in 2017, she served as a member of the science team for the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity while she was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology.

Stephanie Wilson is a veteran of three space shuttle flights, having spent 42 days in space since her selection as an astronaut in 1996. She earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering science and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. Before becoming an astronaut, she worked on the Galileo spacecraft at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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