Meet 2017 NASA’s Newest Astronaut Recruits

Meet NASA’s Newest Astronaut Recruits, Two Are Asian-Americans

The new astronaut class is composed of five women and seven men, ranging in age from 29 to 42 years old. They call 10 different states home, and include academics, doctors, members of the armed forces, and even a former commercial fisherman and ice driller. The one thing they all have in common? Their list of accomplishments—whether in the academic world, military service, or the professional sphere—are stellar.

Photo by Nasa


The full list of astronaut candidates are as follows:

  • Kayla Barron, 29, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from Richland, Washington. She was a member of first class of women in the submarine warcraft community.
  • Zena Cardman, 29, a graduate research fellow at Penn State from Williamsburg, Virginia. She studies marine sciences on a National Science Foundation grant, and she’s worked at NASA before as a researcher on some of their missions.
  • Raja Chari, 39, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force from Cedar Falls, Iowa. He directs the F-35 Integrated Test Force, which has been involved in developing the new stealth fighter for U.S. military use.
  • Matthew Dominick, 35, Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy from Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Recently, he’s been in Japan and at sea onboard the USS Ronald Reagan in the Western Pacific.
  • Bob Hines, 42, a research pilot at the NASA Johnson Space Center from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He’s already been at NASA for five years, after serving in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserves for 18 years.
  • Woody Hoburg, 31, an assistant professor at MIT from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Prior to leading a research group at MIT, he had worked as a private pilot with wilderness search and rescue experience.
  • Jonny Kim, 33, a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital from Los Angeles, California. He earned a Silver and a Bronze Star while operating as a Navy SEAL — and then he got a math degree and went to Harvard Medical School.
  • Robb Kulin, 33, launch chief engineer for SpaceX from Anchorage, Alaska. Before coming to SpaceX, his jobs ranged from a commercial fisherman in Alaska to an ice driller in Antarctica.
  • Jasmin Moghbeli, 33, a major in the U.S. Marine Corps from Baldwin, New York. She’s the only incoming astronaut from the Marine Corps, and currently tests H-1 helicopters.
  • Loral O’Hara, 34, a research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution from Sugarland Texas. She’s previously worked with NASA as a student in the KC-135 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunity Program, NASA Academy, and as an intern at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  • Frank Rubio, 41, a major in the U.S. army from Miami, Florida. He’s served as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot and as a surgeon.
  • Jessica Watkins, 29, a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology from Lafayette, Colorado. She’s worked on Mars-related projects with NASA in the past, and as Kelly quipped, “We hope to send her to Mars one day, folks.”

Members of the astronaut class of 2017 were notified of their acceptance to the program on May 25, and have had to keep the news a secret since then, telling only their families. On the day of the notifications, they were told to await a phone call (although some, like Hines who works at Johnson Space Center, received alternate notifications—he was surprised in-person by astronaut office chief Chris Cassidy, who showed up to one of his flights.)

This is a historic class in its own right: they were chosen from a record-shattering pool of 18,353 applications. That means that the likelihood of being selected was roughly 0.05%—talk about selective. The most recent class, announced in 2013, drew from a comparatively minuscule pool of 6,000 applicants, and the record up until now was 8,000 applicants in 1978. The applications poured in from all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa during the two month submission period.

Read more detail on Asia World Magazine 2017 Summer Issue (coming out in Mid-July)