Today, NASA got to do one of those great things that exemplifies what we’re all about, something that points us toward the future and inspires future generations. We introduced the 2013 astronaut class to the world, and we couldn’t be prouder.
This is the first class in three years, and the 21st overall in our nation’s nearly 55-year journey in space. From a near-record number of applicants, more than 6,100, we selected an extremely qualified class that represents a high degree of achievement and dedication to our nation’s future. There are two Ph.D.’s represented, an M.D., and several naval aviators. They’ve served in the military, government and academia. They have the experience and physical and operational skills to help advance our nation’s space program.
The new candidates have diverse background and come from across the country, the commonality being that they have a commitment to excellence in all their fields of pursuit.
The new astronaut class represents the full tapestry of our nation. They are African American, Native American, and, for the first time, representative of women equal to the population – 50%.
This is the highest percentage of women ever in a class of astronaut candidates, and will set a new standard for women in the science technology, engineering and mathematics fields. They will join the 43 American women who have already flown to space and the 12 women currently in NASA’s astronaut corps. The announcement is especially meaningful as tomorrow we mark the 30th anniversary of Sally Ride’s historic launch as the first American woman to space aboard the space shuttle.
There is a deep and abiding interest in space travel in this nation, and there will be many opportunities for these trainees to fly in the future. As NASA lays the groundwork for a mission to an asteroid in the 2020s and human missions to Mars in the 2030s, this 2013 class of astronaut candidates, and the 2009 class before them, will be among those who will have the opportunity to plan and carry out these exciting missions, strengthen our nation’s leadership in space and push the boundaries of exploration.
The timing is especially appropriate as tomorrow we host an Asteroid Initiative Industry and Partners Day to get input on our planned, first-of-its-kind, mission to redirect an asteroid to an orbit nearer to Earth so that astronauts can visit it, collect samples and demonstrate the technologies that will help us to travel to Mars. This mission will be an early demonstration of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew vehicle currently in development for deep space missions. It will also demonstrate some of the many space technologies we are working on for tomorrow’s missions, such as solar electric propulsion, which will power the mission to redirect the asteroid closer to home.
The new class also will be among the first to fly on new commercial space transportation systems in development right now to travel to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station. We anticipate that by 2017 at least one of our commercial partners SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada will be able to carry astronauts to space from American soil, just as SpaceX today resupplies the station with cargo, and is soon to be joined in that endeavor by Orbital Sciences.
To read more about our new astronaut candidates, visit:
I send my deepest congratulations to the new astronaut candidates, and look forward to getting to know them. Together, we’ll reach higher so what we learn and do can benefit all humankind.