NASA has announced it welcomed 11 new astronauts to its ranks Friday, increasing the number of those eligible for spaceflight assignments that will expand humanity´s horizons in space for generations to come, the company said.
The new astronauts successfully completed more than two years of required basic training and are the first to graduate since the agency announced its Artemis program.
The new graduates may be assigned to missions destined for the International Space Station, the Moon, and ultimately, Mars. With a goal of sustainable lunar exploration later this decade, NASA will send the first woman and next man to the surface on the Moon by 2024. Additional lunar missions are planned once a year thereafter and human exploration of Mars is targeted for the mid-2030s.
During the ceremony, each new astronaut received a silver pin, a tradition dating back to the Mercury 7 astronauts, who were selected in 1959. They will receive a gold pin once they complete their first spaceflights.
This was the first public graduation ceremony for astronauts the agency has ever hosted, and Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas were among the speakers at the event. Selected for training in 2017, the NASA astronaut candidates were chosen from a record-setting pool of more than 18,000 applicants.
Including the current class, NASA now has 49 active astronauts in its corps. NASA is also considering plans to open the application process this spring for the next class of astronaut candidates. Training alongside the NASA astronaut candidates for the past two years were two Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronauts who also participated in the graduation ceremony.