Today, the eight members of NASA’s newest astronaut candidate class are at the White House, meeting more than 100 of the future astronauts, scientists and engineers of America. As they begin two years of pre-flight training, astronaut candidates John A. Cassada; Victor J. Glover; Tyler N. Hague; Christina M. Hammock; Nicole Aunapu Mann; Anne C. McClain and Andrew R. Morgan have traveled to Washington to participate on a panel at the second annual State of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (SoSTEM) event held the day following President Obama’s State of the Union address. Convened by Director of the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, John P. Holdren, SoSTEM brings together some of the nation’s leading STEM “doers, innovators and thinkers” to promote STEM education as essential to America’s technological and economic future. A highlight of this year’s event is the opportunity for about 100 local middle-and high-school students to ask questions of our newest astronaut candidates in a panel discussion moderated by Joe Acaba, a teacher-astronaut who has logged 138 days in space during two missions.
The appearance by our astronaut candidates highlights two important NASA priorities – our strong support of STEM education and the importance of human spaceflight to America’s continuing technological leadership in space and on Earth in the 21st century.
For more than 50 years, NASA astronauts have symbolized that leadership and inspired countless young people to study STEM. The current eight astronaut candidates were selected from a pool of more than 6,000 applicants, the second largest in NASA history. The group is in a two-year training process, which includes technical activities at space centers and remote locations around the globe. The training is designed to prepare them for missions that will help the agency push the boundaries of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system, including an asteroid and Mars.
Every NASA astronaut, as well as the thousands of scientists and engineers who support our missions are rooted in STEM education. I am pleased that our astronaut candidates are in Washington to help us support the President’s vision for STEM and to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with students.