New Artemis Generation Astronauts to Graduate, NASA Sets Coverage

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NASA will honor the next generation of Artemis astronaut candidates to graduate at 10:30 a.m. EST Tuesday, March 5, at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

After completing more than two years of basic training, these candidates will earn their wings and become eligible for spaceflight, including assignments to the International Space Station, future commercial destinations, missions to the Moon, and eventually, missions to Mars.

The 2021 class includes 10 NASA candidates, as well as two United Arab Emirates (UAE) candidates from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center who have been training alongside the NASA candidates.

After the ceremony, at 11:45 a.m., NASA will host a Q&A session with students and media in the audience. Those following the session on social media may ask questions using #AskNASA. The new graduates also will be available for in-person and remote media interviews.

Both the ceremony and Q&A session will stream live on NASA+, NASA Television, and the agency’s website. Learn how to stream NASA TV through a variety of platforms including social media.

International media must request credentials to participate in person by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, from the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 or U.S. media wishing to participate in person must request credentials no later than 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 29, to the Johnson newsroom. All media seeking an in-person or remote interview with the astronauts must request credentials by 5 p.m. Feb. 29, from the Johnson newsroom.

NASA’s astronaut candidates are:

Nichole Ayers, major, U.S. Air Force, is a native of Colorado who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a minor in Russian. She later earned a master’s degree in Computational and Applied Mathematics from Rice University in Houston. Ayers has more than 200 combat hours and more than 1,400 hours of total flight time in the T-38 and the F-22 Raptor fighter jet. One of the few women to have flown the F-22, in 2019 Ayers led the first ever all-woman formation of the aircraft in combat.

Marcos Berríos, major, Air National Guard, grew up in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Berríos worked as an aerospace engineer for the U.S. Army Aviation Development Directorate at Moffett Federal Airfield in California and as a combat search and rescue helicopter pilot for the California Air National Guard. He is a test pilot who holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering as well as a doctorate in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Berríos has accumulated more than 110 combat missions and 1,400 hours of flight time in more than 21 different aircraft.

Chris (Christina) Birch grew up in Gilbert, Arizona, and graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson, with degrees in Mathematics and Biochemistry and Molecular biophysics. After earning a doctorate in biological engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she taught bioengineering at the University of California in Riverside, and scientific writing and communication at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. She subsequently left academia to become a track cyclist on the U.S. National Team.

Deniz Burnham calls Wasilla, Alaska, home. A former intern at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of California in San Diego, and a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Burnham is an experienced leader in the energy industry, having managed drilling projects on oil rigs for over a decade, including the Arctic in Alaska, Northern Alberta in Canada, and Texas. Burnham served in the U.S. Navy Reserves as an engineering duty officer. She is a licensed private pilot with the following ratings: airplane single engine land and sea, instrument airplane, and rotorcraft-helicopter.

Luke Delaney, major, retired, U.S. Marine Corps, grew up in Debary, Florida. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of North Florida in Jacksonville, and a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Delaney is a naval aviator who participated in exercises throughout the Asia Pacific region and conducted combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. As a test pilot, he executed flights evaluating weapon systems integration, and he served as an instructor. Delaney most recently worked as a research pilot at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where he supported airborne science missions. Including his NASA career, Delaney has logged more than 3,900 flight hours on 48 models of jet, propeller, and rotary wing aircraft.

Andre Douglas is a Virginia native. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and a doctorate in Systems Engineering from the George Washington University in Washington. Douglas served in the U.S. Coast Guard as a naval architect, salvage engineer, damage control assistant, and officer of the deck. He most recently was a senior staff member at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, working on maritime robotics, planetary defense, and space exploration missions for NASA.

Jack Hathaway, commander, U.S. Navy, is a native of Connecticut. He earned bachelor’s degrees in Physics and History from the U.S. Naval Academy and completed graduate studies at Cranfield University in England and the U.S. Naval War College. A naval aviator, Hathaway flew and deployed with Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron 14 aboard the USS Nimitz and Strike Fighter Squadron 136 aboard the USS Truman. He graduated from Empire Test Pilots’ School in Wiltshire, England, supported the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, and was most recently assigned as the prospective executive officer for Strike Fighter Squadron 81. He has more than 2,500 flight hours in 30 types of aircraft, more than 500 carrier arrested landings, and flew 39 combat missions.

Anil Menon, lieutenant colonel, U.S. Air Force, was born and raised in Minneapolis. He was SpaceX’s first flight surgeon, helping to launch the company’s first humans to space during NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission and building a medical organization to support the human system during future missions. Prior to that, he served NASA as the crew flight surgeon for various expeditions taking astronauts to the International Space Station. Menon is an actively practicing emergency medicine physician with fellowship training in wilderness and aerospace medicine. As a physician, he was a first responder during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and the 2011 Reno Air Show accident. In the Air Force, Menon supported the 45th Space Wing as a flight surgeon and the 173rd Fighter Wing, where he logged more than 100 sorties in the F-15 fighter jet and transported over 100 patients as part of the critical care air transport team.

Christopher Williams grew up in Potomac, Maryland. He graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in Physics and a doctorate in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where his research was in astrophysics. Williams is a board-certified medical physicist, completing his residency training at Harvard Medical School in Boston, before joining the faculty as a clinical physicist and researcher. He most recently worked as a medical physicist in the Radiation Oncology Department at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. He was the lead physicist for the institute’s MRI-guided adaptive radiation therapy program. His research focused on developing image guidance techniques for cancer treatments.

Jessica Wittner, lieutenant commander, U.S. Navy, is a native of California with a distinguished career serving on active duty as a naval aviator and test pilot. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and a master’s in Aerospace Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. Wittner was commissioned as a naval officer through an enlisted-to-officer program and has served operationally flying F/A-18 fighter jets with Strike Fighter Squadron 34 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Strike Fighter Squadron 151 in Lemoore, California. A graduate of U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, she also worked as a test pilot and project officer with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 31 in China Lake, California.

UAE’s astronaut candidates are:

Nora AlMatrooshi, born in Sharjah, the first Emirati and Arab woman astronaut, was selected in the second group of UAE astronaut candidates and is part of NASA’s astronaut candidate class of 2021 undergoing training in the U.S. AlMatrooshi holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the United Arab Emirates University and completed a semester at Vaasa University of Applied Sciences in Finland. She is a member of The American Society of Mechanical Engineers and previously worked as a piping engineer at the National Petroleum Construction Co. During her time there, she contributed to significant engineering projects for the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. and Saudi Aramco and served as a technical specialist. She also was vice president of the Youth Council at the National Petroleum Construction Company for three years.

Mohammed AlMulla, born in Dubai, also was selected in the second group of UAE astronaut candidates, and is part of NASA’s astronaut candidate class of 2021 undergoing training in the U.S. At 19 years old, he had obtained a commercial pilot’s license from Australia civil aviation safety authority, making him the youngest pilot in Dubai Police. At age 28, he set another record by becoming the youngest trainer in the same organization after receiving his pilot trainer license. AlMulla earned a bachelor’s degree in Law and Economics in 2015 and an executive master’s in Public Administration from the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government in 2021. With more than 15 years of experience, he also served as the Head of Training Department of the Air Wing Centre at Dubai Police.

All astronaut candidates have completed training in spacewalking, robotics, space station systems, T-38 jet proficiency, and Russian language. At the ceremony, each candidate will receive an astronaut pin, marking their graduation from basic training and their eligibility to be selected to fly in space.

NASA continues its work aboard the space station, which has maintained more than 23 consecutive years of human presence. The agency also is enabling the development of new commercial space stations where crew members will continue conducting science to benefit Earth and deep space exploration.

As part of NASA’s Artemis campaign, the agency will establish the foundation for long-term scientific exploration at the Moon, land the first woman, first person of color, and its first international partner astronaut on the lunar surface, and prepare for human expeditions to Mars for the benefit of all.

Find additional photos of the astronaut candidates and their training here:


Josh Finch / Claire O’Shea
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1100 / claire.a.o’

Courtney Beasley
Johnson Space Center, Houston

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