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Four more alums join astronaut ranks

From more than 2,400 applicants, NASA has selected 35 astronaut candidates for the Class of 1996--and four of them are graduates of MIT.

Two of the four--Assistant Professor Michael J. Massimino of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Daniel M. Tani, launch operations manager for Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, VA--are former students of Professor Thomas B. Sheridan in mechanical engineering. Both worked in what is now called the Human Machine Systems Laboratory, which Professor Sheridan directs.

The others are Air Force Capt. Edward M. Fincke and Navy Lt. Cdr. Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper.

MIT is second only to the military academies as an alma mater of astronauts.

Mr. Tani, in telling Professor Sheridan the good news, said he "still can't believe what a coincidence it was running into Mike (Massimino) at the interview" for the applicants.

Professor Massimino, who lives in Dunwoody, GA, received the SM degree in mechanical engineering and technology and policy (1988), the mechanical engineer degree (1990) and the PhD (1992), all from MIT.

Mr. Tani, of Centreville, VA, received the SB (1984) and the SM (1988), both in mechanical engineering.

Capt. Fincke, a native of Pittsburgh, received the SB in aeronautics and astronautics and earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences (1989). He has been serving as XF-2 flight test liaison at Gifu Air Base in Japan.

Lt. Comdr. Stefanyshyn-Piper, a native of St. Paul, MN, received the SB (1984) and the SM (1985) in mechanical engineering. She has been serving as underwater ship husbandry project officer at the Naval Sea Systems command in Arlington, VA.

The 35 candidates, the largest class since the first group was named in 1978, will report to the Johnson Space Center in Texas August 12 for a year of training and evaluation. Following that, they will receive technical assignments within the Astronaut Office to further prepare them for shuttle flight assignments, NASA said.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 8, 1996.

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