After a search that probably took them to galaxies far, far away, NASA has announced the recruitment of eight new astronauts, picked from a pool of over 6,000 — and for the first time ever half of the new appointees are women.
Salaries for the newbies — the first crop of recruits since 2009 — range between $64,000 and $141,000 per year.
Watch NASA Administrator Charles Bolden induct his new recruits here:
Get to know your new space heroes:
Josh A. Cassada, 39
[Cassada] is originally from White Bear Lake, Minn. Cassada is a former naval aviator who holds an undergraduate degree from Albion College, and advanced degrees from the University of Rochester, N.Y. Cassada is a physicist by training and currently is serving as co-founder and Chief Technology Officer for Quantum Opus.
In an interview with Albion College, his alma-mater, Cassada talked about his work prior to becoming an astronaut:
I was the Navy’s acceptance test pilot for the P-8A, with additional oversight responsibilities encompassing $28 billion in Department of Defense aviation contracts including AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System Aircraft), USAF KC-46, and Insitu UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle).
Victor J. Glover, 37
A Lt. Commander, U.S. Navy, hails from Pomona, Calif., and Prosper, Texas. He is an F/A-18 pilot and graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. Glover holds degrees from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Air University and Naval Postgraduate School. He currently is serving as a Navy Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Congress.
Much more interesting about Glover is that in college, he wrestled on the same team as UFC superstar Chuck Liddell. In a 2008 interview with a California Poly publication, he said of Liddell:
Chuck was an intimating guy even back then.
Tyler N. Hague (Nick), 37
A Lt. Colonel, U.S. Air Force, calls Hoxie, Kan., home. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, Edwards, Calif. Hague currently is supporting the Department of Defense as Deputy Chief of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.
Christina M. Hammock, 34
[Christina] calls Jacksonville, N.C. home. Hammock holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C. She currently is serving as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Station Chief in American Samoa.
After winning the above scholarship, 13 years ago, Hammock stated her "long-term goal is to be involved with the NASA space program."
Nicole Aunapu Mann, 35
A Major, U.S. Marine Corps, originally is from Penngrove, Calif. She is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Stanford (Calif.) University and the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Patuxent River, Md. Mann is an F/A 18 pilot, currently serving as an Integrated Product Team Lead at the U.S. Naval Air Station, Patuxent River.
Anne C. McClain, 34
A Major, U.S. Army, lists her hometown as Spokane, Wash. She is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.; the University of Bath and the University of Bristol, both in the United Kingdom. McClain is an OH-58 helicopter pilot, and a recent graduate of U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River.
In a 2010 interview with the Patriot League, McClain talked about her future plans:
Next summer I will move to Houston, Texas, and take a position at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in the Astronaut Office. The Army is blessed to have a few positions at JSC for top former astronaut applicants to gain exposure and experience at NASA (I applied and was not selected to the astronaut class of 2010, looking forward to the next selection in 2012!). Most candidates do not get selected the first time around, so I am eagerly waiting for my next opportunity!
Jessica U. Meir, Ph.D., 35
[Jessica] is from Caribou, Maine. She is a graduate of Brown University, has an advanced degree from the International Space University, and earned her doctorate from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Meir currently is an Assistant Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
The Bangor Daily News reported the reaction from one of Meir's former teachers:
"I was giving an exam today and got a message from Jessica,” Kenneth W. Atcheson II, advanced U.S. history teacher at CHS, said late Monday afternoon. "In it she said, ‘Mr. Atcheson, dreams do come true.'"
Meir, according to Atcheson, had wanted to be an astronaut for as long has he has known her.
"This is just an unbelievable and thrilling day for me and for Jessica; she is an amazing individual who is bright, intelligent and thinks on her feet."
Andrew R. Morgan, M.D., 37
A Major, U.S. Army, considers New Castle, Pa., home. Morgan is a graduate of The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and earned doctorate in medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md. He has experience as an emergency physician and flight surgeon for the Army special operations community, and currently is completing a sports medicine fellowship.
All of the newbies will begin their training at the Johnson Space Center in August.