NASA has eight new astronauts — its first new batch in four years.
The eight — all in their 30s — were chosen from among more than 6,000 applications received early last year, the second-largest number ever received. They will report for duty in August at Johnson Space Center in Houston and join 49 astronauts currently at NASA.
The number has dwindled ever since the space shuttles stopped flying in 2011. Many astronauts quit rather than get into a lengthy line for relatively few slots for long-term missions aboard the International Space Station.
The Class of 2013 has four women — the highest percentage of female astronaut candidates ever selected by NASA — and four men, the agency said Monday.
Nicole Aunapu Mann, a major in the Marines, is an F/A 18 pilot serving at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Md. Army Maj. Anne McClain is a helicopter pilot. The two other women, Christina Hammock and Jessica Meir, are scientists.
All four men have military backgrounds, including one who is a former emergency room physician, Dr. Andrew Morgan. The others are former naval aviator Josh Cassada, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Victor Glover and Air Force Lt. Col. Tyler N. "Nick" Hague.
NASA administrator Charles Bolden said these new candidates will help lead the first human mission to an asteroid in the 2020s and then to Mars, sometime in the following decade. They also may be among the first to fly to the space station aboard commercial spacecraft launched from the United States, he noted. Russia ferries the astronauts now.