NASA’s latest astronaut class announced, including SpaceX medical director, others

nasa astronaut class of 2021

On Monday, NASA announced the newest class of astronaut candidates. Ten candidates were selected by NASA, including a SpaceX employee, military test pilots, and engineers.

Back in March, NASA opened up applications for the coveted job of NASA astronaut. More than 12,000 people applied from all 50 states, the District of Colombia, and four US territories. While anyone can apply, NASA’s application details what it is looking for in that year’s class. This year’s requirements focused on STEM fields and pilots.

“Today we welcome 10 new explorers, 10 members of the Artemis generation, NASA’s 2021 astronaut candidate class. Alone, each candidate has ‘the right stuff,’ but together they represent the creed of our country: E pluribus unum – out of many, one.”

Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator

The 2021 astronaut class will have 12 members going through its two-year training program, ten from NASA and two from the United Arab Emirates.

NASA astronaut class of 2021

  • Nichole Ayers
  • Marcos Berríos
  • Christina Birch
  • Deniz Burnham
  • Luke Delaney
  • Andre Douglas
  • Jack Hathaway
  • Anil Menon
  • Christopher Williams
  • Jessica Wittner

International participants

  • Nora AlMatrooshi (UAE)
  • Mohammad AlMulla (UAE)
The two newest UAE astronauts will join NASA’s 2021 class for training. Credit: MBRSC

Notable cadidate members

Each team member has had impressive careers, becoming the best at what they do in their respective industries. Eight candidates have military backgrounds, most of them are pilots for various branches. Part of that group, Andre Douglas is only the third US Coast Guardsman to be selected as an astronaut. Also, Nichole Ayers came from the US Air Force and is an experienced F-22 pilot. Notably, she led the first all-female F-22 formation in combat.

Many candidates came from the military or academic fields, but some also came from the private industry this year. For example, Deniz Burnham graduated with a master’s in mechanical engineering and managed drilling sites in Alaska, Texas, and Canada. Another interesting candidate is Anil Menon, while having extensive experience with the Air Force, even serving with the 45th Space Wing, he comes to us from SpaceX. Menon was the company’s first flight surgeon and now medical director, building a medical team around him to help launch SpaceX’s first crewed flight back in 2020.

Possible post-candidate assignments

When these candidates finish their training and become available for flight assignments, the Artemis program will be in full swing looking for the first lunar landing crew. By that point, new commercial options for low Earth orbit will need astronauts to oversee the development of the future of space base research.

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