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Air Force Academy grad from Divide selected as NASA astronaut candidate

Air Force Academy grad from Divide selected as NASA astronaut candidate

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Over 12,000 people applied to become one of NASA's next astronauts, and a Divide native was one of just ten people selected for the 2021 Astronaut Candidate Class.

Maj. Nichole Ayers, 32, graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 2011 with a degree in mathematics and minor in Russian, and she went on to earn a master's degree in computational and applied mathematics from Rice University, so it's clear that she knows her stuff.

Ayers is also no stranger to flight, logging more than 200 combat hours and over 1,150 hours of total flight time in the T-38 and F-22 Raptor. According to NASA, Ayers led the first-ever all-woman formation of the F-22 in combat in 2019.

Those skills are going to come in handy as Ayers begins two years of training at Johnson Space Center in Houston. The 2021 astronaut class is the first new class in four years, and all of the candidates will report for duty in January 2022.

NASA says astronaut training has five major categories: "operating and maintaining the International Space Station's complex systems, training for spacewalks, developing complex robotics skills, safely operating a T-38 training jet, and Russian language skills."

“Today we welcome 10 new explorers, 10 members of the Artemis generation, NASA’s 2021 astronaut candidate class,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Monday. “Alone, each candidate has ‘the right stuff,’ but together they represent the creed of our country: E pluribus unum – out of many, one.”

The 2021 astronaut candidates are:

  • US Air Force Maj. Nicole Ayers, 32, of Divide
  • US Air Force Maj. Marcos Berríos, 37, of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
  • Christina Birch, 35, of Gilbert, Arizona
  • US Navy Lt. Deniz Burnham, 36, of Wasilla, Alaska
  • Ret. US Marine Corps Maj. Luke Delaney, 42, of Debary, Florida
  • Andre Douglas, 35, of Virginia
  • US Navy Commander Jack Hathaway, 39, of Connecticut
  • US Air Force Lt. Col. Anil Menon, 45, of Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Christopher Williams, 38, of Potomac, Maryland
  • US Navy Lt. Col. Jessica Wittner, 38, of California

You can learn more about all of the candidates at this link.

Andrew McMillan

Andrew is the Digital Content Director for Learn more about Andrew here.


1 Comment

  1. The world is watching NASA. How about making sure they look the part. Then who am I kidding, at least they are not in their jammies with green hair. Congratulations to all the candidates.

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