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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

55 mins ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: It means former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

2 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

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