Congrats To Astronaut Class 23

Image: NASA

A SpaceX alum is among the 12 astronauts who earned their wings on Tuesday.

Anil Menon served as SpaceX’s first flight surgeon, participating in the company’s Demo-2 mission—the first to launch astronauts from US soil since the end of the shuttle program. Now, Menon, an Air Force officer who worked as a NASA flight surgeon before joining SpaceX, will have the chance to take flight himself as a newly minted astronaut. 

NASA tapped the astronaut candidates in 2021. After 2+ years of training, they’re now eligible for assignments to the ISS and the Moon. Check out the full list of new astronauts, which includes combat veterans, a medical physicist who worked for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and a track cyclist on the US National Team.

Space diplomacy: In addition to 10 Americans, the class includes two Emiratis as part of NASA’s close cooperation with the country, which is also building an airlock for NASA’s Gateway lunar space station. 

Nora Al Matrooshi is the first Emirati and Arab female astronaut and Mohammed Al Mulla received his commercial pilot’s license at just 19 years old.

The right stuff: The astronaut corps historically pulls heavily from the military, and this class is no exception. Seven of the 10 American astronauts have served in either active duty or reserve forces.

But some things are different from the old days: Four of the 12 astronaut candidates are women.

High praise: The group of new astronauts, nicknamed “The Flies,” earned a hearty congratulations from Vice President Kamala Harris, who chairs the National Space Committee.

“This diverse group of leaders from across our country will become a part of the next generation of space explorers who will break new barriers, including walking on the Moon as part of the Artemis campaign and traveling to Mars,” she said in a statement. 

Think you have what it takes? NASA opened its next round of applications to join the astronaut corps on Tuesday. 

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