Nasa is all set to announce the names of the newly selected candidates to train as astronauts for future missions ranging from venturing to the Moon and onwards to Mars. The American space agency has reviewed over 12,000 applications and will announce the selected candidates at 11:00 pm IST today.
Nasa said that the selected astronaut candidates will join Administrator Bill Nelson, Nasa Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, Johnson Center Director Vanessa Wyche, and Flight Operations Director Norm Knight on the stage during the announcement.
The selected candidates will go through a rigorous two years of training with Nasa before graduating as astronauts. Following graduation, they will be assigned missions that include research aboard the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and launching on deep space missions on Nasa’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.
“The astronaut candidates will report to Nasa Johnson in January to begin their training in spacecraft systems, spacewalking skills, teamwork, and other necessary skills,” the agency said in a statement ahead of the announcement, adding that these women and men were selected after completing their applications in March 2020 for a chance to join Nasa’s astronaut corps and take part in America’s human spaceflight program.
The requirement to apply for an astronaut position in the US space agency included US citizenship, a master’s degree from an accredited institution in a STEM field that emphasised science, technology, engineering, or math, and at least three years of related experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. The candidates also had to pass the Nasa long-duration flight astronaut physical.
WILL THERE BE AN INDIA IN THE MIX?
While Nasa is quiet about the profiles of the selected astronauts, it remains to be seen if they have selected an American of Indian descent to be the next astronaut. Nasa has in the past selected US citizens from Indian dissent as astronauts, which include Kalpana Chawla, Sunita Williams and the latest being Commander Raja Chari, who was recently launched to the International Space Station.
Raja Chari was selected by Nasa to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class, when he was Colonel select in the US Air Force, serving as the Commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the Director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force. Chari has 2,500 hours of flight time in the F-35, F-15, F-16, and F-18, including F-15E combat missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom and deployments in support of the Korean peninsula.
Meanwhile, astronaut Sunita Williams was selected for the job in 1998 and is a veteran of two space expeditions. She is currently training for the first post-certification mission of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft the second crewed flight for that vehicle and her third long-duration mission aboard the International Space Station.