NASA’s latest 12 astronauts from the Class of 2017 include seven men and five women who range from military officers and doctors to a marine biologist, a geologist, and a SpaceX engineer who may one day ride the rocket he helped design.
The new astronauts were chosen from more than 18,000 applicants, a record number of contenders, which was more than double the previous record of 8,000, according to USA Today. They will be called astronaut candidates until they complete a two-year training program.
It’s the 22nd astronaut class since the first induction of the Mercury Seven by NASA in 1959. Their future duties could include research on the International Space Station, orbiting in a laboratory aboard SpaceX Dragon, or flying the first missions in the vicinity of the moon since Apollo moon landing program ended in 1972.
They will join 44 other active astronauts. The flight rate has been much lower for astronauts since the space shuttle program, but time in space has been for much longer periods with new projects aboard the space station or in planned future voyages, CBS News reported.
Dressed in blue NASA flight suits, members of the Class of 2017 were cheered by families and guests as Vice President Mike Pence addressed the ceremony at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
"You are the 12 who made it through, you have joined the elites, you are the best of us," Pence said. "You carry on your shoulders the hopes and dreams of the American people."
Pence also promised that the Trump administration is "firmly committed to NASA’s noble mission — leading America in space."
Among the group of astronauts, ranging from in age from 29 to 42, is Robb Kulin, 33, senior manager for flight reliability at SpaceX, the private company that has manufactured and launched rockets into orbit, including the orbiting and recovering of a spacecraft.
Others in the NASA Class of 2017 include:
Col. Raja Chari, 39; Dr. Francisco Rubio, 41; Jessica Watkins, 29; Kayla Barron, 29, Zena Cardman, 29; Bob Hines, 42; Matthew Dominick, 35; Warren Hoburg, 31; Dr. Jonny Kim, 33; Jasmin Moghbeli, 33; and Loral O’Hara, 34.
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