As it prepares to send humans to the moon and Mars, NASA selected ten new astronauts on Monday, half of whom are military pilots.
During a ceremony in Houston, where Mission Control and the astronaut corps are located, the space agency unveiled the six men and four women.
Over 12,000 people applied for the coveted positions. The ten chosen are in their 30s and 40s and will have to undergo two years of training before being considered for spaceflight.
A medical physicist, drilling specialist, marine roboticist, NASA-turned-SpaceX flight surgeon, and bioengineer who was a champion cyclist are among the astronaut hopefuls, in addition to combat and test pilots. They will be joined by two astronauts from the United Arab Emirates for training.
During a question-and-answer session, one of the pilots, Air Force Maj. Marcos Berrios of Puerto Rico, volunteered to fly a life-size replica of NASA’s tiny helicopter on Mars.
“I know Deniz, the other helicopter pilot here,” he said, “and I’d love to take it for a spin for science.”
Alaskan Navy Lt. Deniz Burnham oversees drilling initiatives across North America.
Since the original Mercury Seven in 1959, NASA has welcomed 360 persons into the astronaut corps. The last time an astronaut was chosen was in 2017.
“We are in the golden age of human spaceflight right now,” NASA chief astronaut Reid Wiseman said, with SpaceX flying people to the International Space Station and other private businesses carrying tourists on short journeys, and NASA’s Artemis moon-landing mission on the horizon.
NASA wants to return astronauts to the moon by 2025 at the earliest.