Meet NASA’s new class of badass female astronauts

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It’s obvs one of the coolest jobs in the world, and these new recruits are totally killin’ it.

When you’re a kid and you find out that there are actually real people who get paid to study the universe and learn about the science of space travel, it seemed like the most badass job in the galaxy, right?!

Even though most of us grow up and end up with jobs that are very much based on this planet, thanks to our ongoing fascination with space exploration, which is only encouraged by each new release from Marvel, Star Trek and Star Wars, plenty of us continue to harbour a small pipe dream of being onboard the Starship Enterprise (or Millennium Falcon depending on your preference) and exploring the great unknown.

But for some badass women, this dream is one step closer to becoming a reality as NASA has recently announced their list of latest recruits who have been selected to train as astronauts. After being selected from a record-breaking 18,300 applicants, five women, alongside seven men, have been chosen to embark on a two-year training programme that will see them graduate as fully fledged astronauts.

So here are the badass women that are undoubtedly going to inspire a new generation of space cadets. And even if you don’t end up with a job in space, their stories offer sage advice that you can apply to your careers, whatever planet you work on.

Jasmin Moghbeli

Jasmine, a 33-year-old German-born, New York native, currently works testing H-1 helicopters as a major in the Marines and has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in aerospace engineering. And if that wasn’t enough she’s also a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School.

After wanting to be an astronaut since the sixth grade, year 7 for those of us in the UK, Jasmine has now landed her dream job and hopes that working for NASA will inspire young girls to believe that they can do whatever they want in their careers and said to NPR, “if they can see someone similar to them that they can relate to more, then it makes it all that much more possible in their minds to imagine them doing this as well. So, to them I say, do what you love and do it well.”

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Loral O’Hara

Loral, a 34-year-old from Texas, is currently working as a research engineer and has a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics.

As a student, O’Hara spent a lot of time with NASA and has participated in their KC-135 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program, the NASA Academy at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Centre and was a part of the internship programme at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Speaking to Click 2 Houston, O’Hara said that she hopes to encourage young girls to live an adventurous life and said that, “I’d tell them to try as many things as possible. And just be curious about the world around them.” As echoed by the other new recruits, she wants to instil in young girls the importance of picking a field that you’re passionate about and truly loving what you do.

Jessica Watkins

Jessica Watkins, a 29-year-old from Colorado, is a geologist and also currently a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology where she is collaborating on the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. Not only does she have a bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences and a doctorate in geology, she has also worked at NASA before in both the Ames Research Centre and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Like the other recruits, being an astronaut has always been her dream and she has consciously built her education and work experience towards landing a spot on the NASA programme.

After studying mechanical engineering at university for a year and a half, she realised that she didn’t love it and said in an interview with Blastr, “I think that’s been an important thing for me to remember in my life, that persistence pays off and that the path may change, and that the path for me definitely did change, but the goal didn’t, and when one door is closing another is opening.” She also added “I think it becomes really important to stick with it even if it doesn’t end up panning out the way you originally intended.”

Kayla Barron

Kayla, a 29-year-old from Washington, has a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from Cambridge University. She works as a part of the US Naval Academy and was impressively a member of the first class of women that were commissioned into the submarine community and worked as a submarine warfare officer.

As competitive as it might be to gain a coveted place on the NASA programme, Barron said that the process was actually very collegial and supportive. She said that although it was eye-watering to learn about the background and qualifications of the other applicants and hear them talk about their goals, she never thought of them as competitors but rather as potential teammates. In an interview, she said to Baltimore Sun that ‘you can’t help but root for everyone.

Zena Cardman

Zena, a 29-year-old from Virginia, has a bachelor of science in biology and a master of science in marine sciences. She is currently completing her doctorate as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and has a research speciality in microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments.

While her previous research has been focused on the world’s oceans, she’s eager to turn her skills towards becoming an astronaut. When invited down to Houston for an interview, Cardman told The Verge, ‘that phone call was so surreal. I almost didn’t pick up, because I didn’t recognise the number’ she then added that there was a moment of stunned silence before eagerly accepting the invitation and going down for the interview.

When asked what career advice she would give to young hopefully that want to pursue a career as an astronaut she said, ‘my main advice is just pursue something that you love. Because if you want up curious and excited every morning, you’re going to be really happy no matter what the end result is, whatever career you wind up in. Just pursue whatever interests you.’

Words: Tara Pilkington
Photos: NASA
This article was first published on The Debrief