NASA adds 12 new astronauts to its active flight corps

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Today, NASA added 12 new astronauts to its corps, which now boasts 56 active members who can be assigned to upcoming spaceflight missions. The new class is made up of five women and seven men of various backgrounds — ranging from Air Force commanders to a ocean research engineer. One is even a former SpaceX engineer.

The new class was announced this afternoon at a special event at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. In attendance were numerous Texas representatives as well as Vice President Mike Pence, who gave a speech about the future of the space agency. Pence didn’t mention too many specifics but did say that President Trump is “firmly committed” to NASA’s mission in space and that “America will lead the way in space once again.”

Pence also reconfirmed that he will head up the soon-to-be-resurrected National Space Council — an executive group aimed at guiding US space policy. The council used to exist in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and was in effect during George H.W. Bush’s administration, but it was disbanded in 1993. Pence actually confirmed in March that Trump intended to relaunch the council and apparently there is already an executive order drafted to create the group, Space News reported. However, it’s unclear when the council will be officially formed.

Additionally, Pence noted that NASA would continue to have the resources it needs to “make history” — even though the president’s budget request cuts funding and cancels certain programs at the agency. And he mentioned that NASA would continue to collaborate with the commercial space industry in the future. As for the rest of his speech, Pence touted the merits of the new astronaut class. “The courage of these men and women, and all the astronauts who have gone before, inspires me to this very day,” he said.

And certainly, the new astronauts are very inspiring. This group was selected from a record 18,300 applicants — more than NASA has ever had during an open astronaut call. To get picked, people have to meet some physical requirements as well as certain education and experience criteria — such as having a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field or accumulating up to 1,000 hours of piloting jets. But it’s clear that this new class greatly surpasses all the minimum skills that NASA requires.

To learn more about the 12 new hires, check out NASA’s site, which has detailed biographies of each astronaut.

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