Washington: NASA welcomed 11 new astronauts to its ranks on Friday, increasing the number of those eligible for spaceflight assignments that will expand humanity’s horizons in space for generations to come. The new astronauts successfully completed more than two years of required basic training and are the first to graduate since the agency announced its Artemis program.
The new graduates may be assigned to missions destined for the International Space Station, the Moon, and ultimately, Mars. With a goal of sustainable lunar exploration later this decade, NASA will send the first woman and next man to the surface on the Moon by 2024. Additional lunar missions are planned once a year thereafter and human exploration of Mars is targeted for the mid-2030s.
“These individuals represent the best of America, and what an incredible time for them to join our astronaut corps,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston where the graduation ceremony took place. “2020 will mark the return of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, and will be an important year of progress for our Artemis program and missions to the Moon and beyond.”
During Friday’s ceremony, each new astronaut received a silver pin, a tradition dating back to the Mercury 7 astronauts, who were selected in 1959. They will receive a gold pin once they complete their first spaceflights.
This was the first public graduation ceremony for astronauts the agency has ever hosted, and Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas were among the speakers at the event.
“For generations, the United States has been the world leader in space exploration, and Johnson Space Center will always be both the heart and home of human spaceflight activity,” said Cornyn. “I have no doubt the newly minted astronauts will add to that history and accomplish incredible things.”
Selected for training in 2017, the NASA astronaut candidates were chosen from a record-setting pool of more than 18,000 applicants.