NASA announced Monday its 10 latest trainee astronauts, who include a firefighter turned Harvard professor, a former member of the national cycle team, and a pilot  who led the first-ever all-woman F-22 formation in combat.

The 2021 class was whittled down from a field of more than 12,000 applicants and will now report for duty in January at the Johnson Space Center in Texas, where they will undergo two years of training. NASA administrator Bill Nelson said at an event to welcome the recruits,”We’re going back to the Moon, and we’re continuing on to Mars  and so today we welcome 10 new explorers” .

The 10 candidates, who range in age from 32 to 45, will learn how to operate and maintain the International Space Station, train for spacewalks, develop robotics skills, safely operate a T-38 training jet, and learn Russian to communicate with their counterparts.

The field was open to US citizens who hold a master’s degree in a STEM  field  the first time such a requirement was added  and passed an online test. The master’s degree requirement could also be met by a medical degree or completion of a test pilot program.

Anil Menon, 45, is a lieutenant colonel in the US Air Force who was previously SpaceX’s first flight surgeon before an earlier stint at NASA. A physician born to parents from India and Ukraine, he was a first responder during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and the 2011 Reno Air Show accident.

Christina Birch, 35, holds degrees in mathematics and biochemistry and molecular biophysics, as well as a doctorate in biological engineering from MIT.


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