Jan 14, 2020

NASA's newly minted astronauts

The new class of 11 NASA astronauts and two Canadian astronauts. Photo: NASA

Newly graduated NASA astronauts are looking to the Moon, the International Space Station and even Mars as possible destinations.

Why it matters: Astronauts are NASA's charismatic public face, and the new class of 11 — known as the Turtles — will be at the forefront of the space agency's plans to return to the Moon as part of its Artemis program.

  • But perhaps more than that, this diverse class of astronauts represents the space agency's hunger for human spaceflight in a post-space-shuttle, post-Apollo world.
  • "If you look back at the Apollo missions, it was this incredible unifying thing," new astronaut Zena Cardman told Axios of her view on Artemis. "And now [there is] the chance to do that — something of that magnitude again — but to do it differently and sustainably; to go and to stay."

Details: The Turtles graduated in the first-ever public astronaut graduation ceremony held by NASA on Friday.

  • Each of the graduates received a pin to commemorate the graduation after about two years of training.
  • In total, NASA now has 48 active astronauts.
  • During their candidacy, the astronauts were put through their paces training for spacewalks, learning the Russian language and figuring out the general ins and outs of becoming an astronaut.

What's next: The new astronauts now await flight assignments as they rotate through various jobs supporting their colleagues on the space station and on the ground.

  • NASA also has plenty of kinks to work out with Artemis as the agency aims to send people to the Moon by 2024. Congress doesn't appear to be supportive of the timeline laid out by the Trump administration.

Go deeper: NASA racing to get astronauts to the moon in four years

Go deeper

Trump administration seeks 12% boost for NASA in new budget

The Moon, AKA the apple of NASA's eye. Photo: NASA

The Trump administration is going all-in on NASA's Artemis program to get astronauts back to the surface of the Moon by 2024.

Driving the news: The White House is asking Congress for a 12% boost to the space agency's budget for 2021, and it estimates NASA's Moon to Mars initiative will cost about $71.2 billion from 2021 to 2025.

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SpaceX test paves the way for first crewed flights to space station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching with a Crew Dragon atop. Photo: NASA TV/SpaceX

SpaceX completed a major test on Sunday, paving the way for the company's first crewed launch to the International Space Station. According to founder Elon Musk, SpaceX could launch its first astronauts for NASA by the second quarter of this year.

Why it matters: NASA holds contracts with SpaceX and Boeing to fly astronauts to the station, returning crewed launches to the U.S. for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

Go deeperArrowJan 21, 2020

Astronaut Christina Koch lands on Earth after record-setting mission

NASA's Christina Koch. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is back on Earth after spending 328 days in space, living and working onboard the International Space Station.

Why it matters: During her time in orbit, Koch participated in the first all-woman spacewalk and set a record for the longest continuous spaceflight by a female astronaut in history.

Go deeperArrowFeb 6, 2020 - Science