When asked, “What do I have to do to become an astronaut?” MIT professor of aeronautics and astronautics and Dibner Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing David Mindell says he semi-seriously responds, “Go get a degree from MIT.”
It certainly seems that advice has merit: Last week, NASA announced it had added three MIT alumni — including one current faculty member in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro) — to its 12-member 2017 astronaut candidate class, bringing up the total number of MIT astronaut alumni to 41.
The new MIT astronaut candidates, all AeroAstro alumni selected from an applicant pool of more than 18,000, are:
Raja Chari SM ’01, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who commands the 461st Flight Test Squadron and directs the F-35 Integrated Task Force;
Warren “Woody” Hoburg ’08, an MIT assistant professor of AeroAstro who teaches undergraduate courses on dynamics and flight vehicle engineering; and
Jasmin Moghbeli ’05, a U.S. Marine Corps major serving as the quality assurance and avionics officer for the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron.
This summer, the new astronaut candidates will begin two years of training. Subsequently, they will be available for a variety of missions, which may involve research on the International Space Station, launching aboard spacecraft built by commercial companies, or departing for deep-space missions on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft.
With this latest class, MIT AeroAstro has produced 17 alumni astronauts. Four of the men who walked on the moon were Course 16 alumni: Buzz Aldrin ScD ’63, Ed Mitchell ScD ’64, Charlie Duke SM ’64, and David Scott SM/EAA ’62. Meanwhile, Jack Fischer SM ’98 is currently a crewmember on the International Space Station.
“While educating future astronauts isn’t exactly an explicit part of our curriculum, it’s clear that NASA very much values the skills learned at MIT when it’s parsing the thousands of applications for candidates,” says Jaime Peraire, head of AeroAstro and the H.N. Slater Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “And, of course, we’re extremely proud of these young women and men.”