[HOT] : Anil Menon, of Indian descent, among NASA’s new trainee astronauts
NASA on Monday announced its last 10 student astronauts, including a firefighter-turned-professor at Harvard, a former member of the national cycling team and a pilot who led the first-ever all-female F-22 formation in combat. The 2021 class has been downsized from a pool of more than 12,000 applicants and will now report for work in January at the Johnson Space Center in Texas, where they will undergo two years of training. “We’re going back to the Moon and continuing to Mars – so today we welcome 10 new explorers,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at an event welcoming the recruits.
“Alone, each candidate has ‘the right things’, but together they represent the credo of our country: E pluribus unum – among many others, one,” he added.
The 10 candidates, aged 32 to 45, will learn how to operate and maintain the International Space Station, train for spacewalks, develop robotics skills, safely fly a jet aircraft. T-38 training and learn Russian to communicate with their counterparts. .
After graduation, they could be assigned to missions aboard the ISS or further into space, including NASA’s planned return to the Moon later this decade as part of the Artemis mission, which will include the first woman and person of color to set foot on the lunar soil.
The field was open to U.S. citizens with a master’s degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field – the first time such a requirement was added – and passed an online test. The requirement for a master’s degree could also be met through a medical degree or the completion of a pilot testing program.
“I split my time between helping research better ways to target radiation therapy for cancer and then working as a multidisciplinary team to treat patients,” said Williams, who holds a doctorate in astrophysics from MIT and has been a volunteer emergency medical technician and a firefighter.
Anil Menon, 45, is a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who was previously SpaceX’s first flight surgeon before a previous stint at NASA.
A doctor born to Indian and Ukrainian parents, he was a first responder during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2015 earthquake in Nepal and the accident at the Reno air show in 2011.
Christina Birch, 35, has degrees in mathematics, biochemistry and molecular biophysics, as well as a doctorate in biological engineering from MIT.
She left a college career to race as a track cyclist for the U.S. team, qualifying for the Olympics and winning World Cup medals in the team pursuit and the Madison race.
NASA’s last class graduated in 2017. Two of its members, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, currently serve on the ISS.