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NASA selects three from MIT for astronaut training

Chari, Hoburg, and Moghbeli, all with ties to the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, represent a quarter of NASA's astronaut candidate Class of 2017.
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Three from MIT will train as NASA astronauts beginning in August: Raja Chari SM '01 (left), Jasmin Moghbeli '05 (center), and Assistant Professor Warren “Woody” Hoburg '08.
Caption:
Three from MIT will train as NASA astronauts beginning in August: Raja Chari SM '01 (left), Jasmin Moghbeli '05 (center), and Assistant Professor Warren “Woody” Hoburg '08.
Credits:
Photos: Robert Markowitz/NASA
MIT alumni represent a quarter of the 12-member NASA astronaut candidate Class of 2017. Left to right: Zena Cardman, Jasmin Moghbeli, Jonny Kim, Francisco “Frank” Rubio, Matthew Dominick, Warren “Woody” Hoburg, Robb Kulin, Kayla Barron, Bob Hines, Raja Chari, Loral O’Hara, and Jessica Watkins.
Caption:
MIT alumni represent a quarter of the 12-member NASA astronaut candidate Class of 2017. Left to right: Zena Cardman, Jasmin Moghbeli, Jonny Kim, Francisco “Frank” Rubio, Matthew Dominick, Warren “Woody” Hoburg, Robb Kulin, Kayla Barron, Bob Hines, Raja Chari, Loral O’Hara, and Jessica Watkins.
Credits:
Photo: Robert Markowitz/NASA

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.”

Press Mentions

CNN

Research affiliate Warren “Woody” Hoburg has graduated from NASA’s basic training program and is now eligible for a spaceflight assignment, reports Ashley Strickland for CNN.  The NASA graduates also included Raja Chari SM ‘01 and Jasmin Moghbeli ‘05.  

Science

Prof. Warren Hoburg speaks with Jeffrey Mervis of Science about his decision to leave MIT to join NASA’s 2017 class of astronauts. He explains that he is working on ensuring his students can continue their research. “I think we have a bunch of ideas that are really powerful, and I want to set up my students to continue that research.”

Science

Writing for Science, Jeffrey Mervis features NASA’s 2017 astronaut candidates, which included three MIT affiliates. Mervis highlights how at MIT, Prof. Warren Hoburg, one of this year’s candidates, was focused on developing an, “unmanned, solar-powered airplane that could fly nonstop around the world.”

National Public Radio (NPR)

Alumna Jasmin Moghbeli speaks with NPR’s Emma Bowman about being selected for NASA astronaut training. Moghbeli, one of three trainees with MIT ties, explains that she hopes to inspire girls of color. “If they can see someone similar to them that they can relate to more, then it makes it all that much more possible…to imagine doing this.”

Associated Press

AP reporter Marcia Dunn writes that NASA selected MIT Prof. Warren Hoburg and two MIT alumni - Raja Chari and Jasmin Moghbeli – to join their 2017 class of astronauts. After two years of training, the astronauts could be “riding commercial rockets to the International Space Station or flying beyond the moon in NASA's Orion spacecraft. Their ultimate destination could be Mars.”

Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times reporter Karen Kaplan writes that NASA’s newest class of astronaut trainees includes Prof. Warren Hoburg and MIT alumni Raja Chari and Jasmin Moghbeli. “These would-be astronauts were chosen from among more than 18,300 applicants,” notes Kaplan. “That means their odds of being selected were less than 1 in 1,500.”

Boston Globe

In an article for The Boston Globe, Travis Anderson highlights how several of NASA’s new class of astronauts have MIT ties. Prof. Warren Hoburg and two MIT graduates - Raja Chari and Jasmin Moghbeli - were selected for NASA’s 2017 astronaut class from 18,300 applications, the largest pool ever, according to NASA. 

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