NASA has announced their selection of the largest astronaut class inducted into the space faring organization since 2000.  After receiving a record-breaking 18,300 applications, NASA whittled the candidate pool down to twelve men and women who represent the very best and brightest this country has to offer.

Vice President Mike Pence joined NASA’s leadership on Wednesday as they announced the new group of astronaut candidates from Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

“These are 12 men and women whose personal excellence and whose personal courage will carry our nation to even greater heights of discovery and who I know will inspire our children and our grandchildren every bit as much as your forebears have done so in this storied American program,” Vice President Pence said to the crowd gathered to honor the 2017 class.

“And to this newest class of astronauts, it’s my honor to bring the sincere congratulations of the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. Your President is proud of you, and so am I.”

As difficult as it may seem to make the cut out of almost twenty thousand candidates, the challenge has just begun for these young astronauts.  The astronauts will soon begin the two-year training process intended to prepare them for assignments in any number of possible missions, which may include trips to the International Space Station, making trips to space in foreign or private space crafts, or possibly even deep space missions to destinations like Mars.

“We look forward to the energy and talent of these astronauts fueling our exciting future of discovery,” acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said. “Between expanding the crew on board the space station to conduct more research than ever before, and making preparations to send humans farther into space than we’ve ever been, we are going to keep them busy. These candidates are an important addition to the NASA family and the nation’s human spaceflight team.”

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Of the twelve candidates selected, seven of them hail from the U.S. military.  All four branches are represented in the 2017 class, with the Navy standing out for having the most candidates selected.  Lt. Kayla Barron, Lt. Matthew Dominick, and former SEAL Dr. Jonny Kim all come from the Navy.  Dr. Francisco Rubio is the lone soldier, with Lt. Col. Raha Chari and Bob Hines representing the Air Force and Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli rounding out the group from the Marine Corps.

Dr. Jonny Kim, the lone special operations veteran to be selected by NASA, adds to an already impressive career with this appointment.

2017 NASA Astronaut Candidate – Jonny Kim

As a Navy SEAL, Kim completed more than a hundred combat operations.  He was awarded both a Silver Star and a Bronze Star with Combat “V” for valor throughout his service, before going on to completing undergraduate degrees in Mathematics at the University of San Diego and a Doctorate of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Prior to selection for this program, Maj. Francisco Rubio, a Westpoint graduate, was serving as a surgeon for the 3rd Battalion of the Army’s 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado.

This new selection of 12 astronaut candidates, NASA has now selected only 350 astronauts since the original Mercury missions started in the 1950s.

“These women and men deserve our enthusiastic congratulations,” said astronaut and Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa. “Children all across the United States right now dream of being in their shoes someday. We here at NASA are excited to welcome them to the team and look forward to working with them to inspire the next generation of explorers.”

Training for the 2017 class of astronauts will commence this August.

Images courtesy of NASA