Meet NASA’s 12 New Astronauts, Who Were Chosen From a Record-Breaking Applicant Pool

Their experience ranges from SpaceX to marine biology and military Special Forces

The newest NASA recruits.
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Kayla Barron

Barron, a Washington native, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. She is also a Gates Cambridge Scholar and earned a Master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Cambridge. As a Submarine Warfare Officer, she was a member of the first class of women commissioned into the submarine community.

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Robb Kulin

Alaska native Kulin has experience as an ice driller in Antarctica and as a commercial fisherman in Chignik, Alaska. At the time of his selection, Kulin was senior manager for flight reliability at SpaceX.

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Jessica Watkins

Watkins, a Colorado native, has worked at NASA’s Ames Research Center and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and was a collaborator on the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.

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Bob Hines

Hines has Bachelor’s and Master's degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Boston University and University of Alabama. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, where he earned a Master’s Degree in Flight Test Engineering. He has served in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserves for 18 years. During the last five years, he has served as a research pilot at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. He has accumulated more than 3,500 hours of flight time in 41 different types of aircraft and has flown 76 combat missions.

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Loral O'Hara

Texas native O'Hara was a research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at the time of her NASA selection. Previously, as a student, she participated in NASA’s KC-135 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program, the NASA Academy at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the internship program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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Jasmin Moghbeli

Moghbeli was born in Germany but grew up in New York. She has obtained bachelor's and doctorate degrees in aerospace engineering form MIT and the Naval Postgraduate School. She is also a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and has accumulated more than 1,600 hours of flight time and 150 combat missions. At the time of her selection in June 2017, Moghbeli was testing H-1 helicopters and serving as the quality assurance and avionics officer for Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 of the U.S. Marine Corps in Yuma, Arizona.

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Jonny Kim

The California native trained and operated as a Navy SEAL, completing more than 100 combat operations and earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat “V”. Afterward, he went on to complete a degree in Mathematics at the University of San Diego and a Doctorate of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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Warren Hoburg

At the time of his selection, Hoburg was an assistant professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT. He is a two-time recipient of the AIAA Aeronautics and Astronautics Teaching Award, and prior, he worked for Boeing Commercial Airplanes Product Development on software for composite manufacturing processes.

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Zena Cardman

With a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and Master of Science degree in marine sciences, this Virginia native has researched microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments. She has several years of experience with NASA analog missions, including the Pavilion Lake Research Project.

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Frank Rubio

Rubio, an LA-born West Point graduate, served as a Redhawks platoon leader and as Storm company commander. He also served as a clinic supervisor, an executive medicine provider, a flight surgeon and a Special Forces battalion surgeon.

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Matthew Dominick

Dominick, a Colorado native, earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of San Diego and a Master of Science degree in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He also graduated from U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and has more than 1,600 hours of flight time in 28 aircrafts, 400 carrier-arrested landings and 61 combat missions.

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Raja Chari

The Iowa native graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy with Bachelor’s degrees in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. Chari then continued on to earn a Master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

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NASA just announced a new class of astronauts that’s its biggest since 2000.

The 12 new recruits—seven men and five women—were also selected from a record-breaking applicant pool of more than 18,300 aspiring astronauts. That doubles the previous high of 8,000.

“We look forward to the energy and talent of these astronauts fueling our exciting future of discovery,” acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a release. “Between expanding the crew on board the space station to conduct more research than ever before and making preparations to send humans farther into space than we’ve ever been, we are going to keep them busy. These candidates are an important addition to the NASA family and the nation’s human spaceflight team.”

The newest NASA astronauts were introduced Wednesday by Vice President Mike Pence at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“These are 12 men and women whose personal excellence and whose personal courage will carry our nation to even greater heights of discovery and who I know will inspire our children and our grandchildren every bit as much as your forebears have done so in this storied American program,” he said.

In August, the 12 new astronauts will report back to Johnson to begin two years of training. After completing training, they could be assigned to any of a variety of missions, including: performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies and departing for deep space missions on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

The new recruits have experience in a wide range of backgrounds, from prior experience with NASA and SpaceX to military and marine biology positions. Flip through the slides above to learn about some of the brightest minds NASA has ever recruited.

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