August 20, 2013
NASA Introduces The Next Generation Of Astronauts
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
NASA introduced its next generation of astronauts on Tuesday, as well as a deep space exploration roadmap.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden took the stage to formally welcome eight new astronauts to the space agency. These new astronauts will be among the first generation to potentially carry out the missions to asteroids and Mars.
"This class joins a distinguished and elite group of Americans who have carried out historic missions to the moon, deployed space telescopes and built an orbiting laboratory the size of a football field, where U.S. astronauts have continuously lived, worked and conducted research for more than a dozen years now," said Bolden. "They are being asked to carry on this extraordinary legacy and ensure the United States remains the world's leader in exploration and scientific discovery -- carrying with them America's hopes, dreams and curiosity deep into space, first to an asteroid and one day on to Mars."
The US space agency whittled down the list of candidates from about 6,000 applicants , which was the second largest pool in NASA's history. Half of the selected astronauts are women, making it the highest percentage of female astronaut candidates ever selected for a single class.
"The new astronauts we are introducing today are critical to achieving our ambitious goals," the NASA Administrator said during his speech. "They will help us continue to lead the world in exploration and they will become the role models for boys and girls, men and women around the world."
The group will be participating in some extensive training at both space centers and remote locations to prepare for future space missions that extend past low-Earth orbit.
Bolden also introduced an updated Global Exploration Roadmap (GER) that shows how the global community is working together on a unified deep space exploration strategic plan. The roadmap includes the work of 12 space agencies of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group and highlights the international space community's shared interest in pursuing deep space exploration.
The GER includes an examination of the critical part the International Space Station can play in deep space exploration, as well as robotic and human missions to destinations like near-Earth asteroids and Mars.
"The roadmap demonstrates the important role of NASA's asteroid mission in advancing the capabilities needed for exploring Mars and the economic and societal value such exploration can bring about," Bolden said.
The administrator also said the roadmap identifies potential commercial and international missions to the moon.
"These missions could demonstrate critical capabilities for future Mars missions while meeting other lunar exploration objectives, while we at NASA, we [sic] focus on deep space exploration to meeting the President’s challenges of sending humans to an asteroid and on to Mars," Bolden said. "Together with space agencies from around the world, we are expanding our reach into the solar system as well as our human and technical capabilities."