Two Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) alumni have just graduated astronaut basic training with the first cohort for NASA’s Artemis program, poised to open a new chapter of American space exploration.
Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Dominick received their astronaut pins at a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Jan. 10. Along with the nine other candidates which make up NASA’s 22nd astronaut class, the new graduates are now spaceflight ready for transit to the International Space Station, the moon and - ultimately - Mars.
“These individuals represent the best of America, and what an incredible time for them to join our astronaut corps,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at the graduation ceremony. “2020 will mark the return of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, and will be an important year of progress for our Artemis program and missions to the moon and beyond.”
This is neither hyperbole nor science fiction. The avowed aim of the Artemis program is to return humanity, and the first woman in human history, to the surface of the moon by 2024. The astronauts’ steps will mark the first in 50 years, since another NPS graduate, Gene Cernan, last set foot on the lunar surface.
NASA will create the conditions for a sustainable lunar presence by 2028 and, drawing on knowledge gleaned from ground and orbital exploration, then send astronauts to Mars in the mid-2030s.
Moghbeli graduated from NPS with a master’s in Aerospace Engineering, and Dominick earned his master’s in Systems Engineering. Along with four other women and six men, they were selected out of a record-setting 18,000 applicants to become astronaut candidates.
The group reported for duty at the Johnson Space Center in August 2017 and began a grueling two-year training program. Alongside two Canadian Space Agency astronauts, they experienced weightlessness in parabolic aircraft flights, learned to spacewalk in neutral buoyancy underwater dives, flew NASA’s T-38 supersonic jets, received specialized training in robotics, wilderness survival, International Space Station systems and the Russian language.
The graduation of Class 22 expands NASA’s current total of mission-ready astronauts to 48.