Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday hailed 12 new NASA astronauts as “the best of us,” after they were selected from a record-breaking pool of more than 18,000 applicants.
The seven men and five women who will be part of the US space program as it presses on to Mars and other deep-space destinations in the coming decades include military pilots, emergency physicians and marine biologists.
“You are the best of us,” Pence said at a Houston event celebrating the new space explorers. “You carry on your shoulders the hopes and dreams of the American people.”
More than 18,300 people sent in applications to become astronauts from December 2015 to February 2016.
That was more than double the previous record of 8,000 set in 1978, NASA said.
The space agency announces a new astronaut corps every few years.
To apply, one must be a US citizen, hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) field and have at least three years’ related experience — or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft.
The new astronauts will begin special training in August, including in spacecraft systems, spacewalking skills, and Russian-language courses — to communicate with cosmonauts at the International Space Station.
Pence also announced that he will lead a new advisory council on space issues for the first time since it was disbanded in 1993.
Initially set up in 1958, the National Space Council operated until 1973 as an advisory body to the White House on space issues, particularly during the Apollo era, when the United States was sending men to the moon.
Re-instated from 1989 to 1993, the council included secretaries of defense, commerce, treasury, transportation and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
“Under President Donald Trump, America will lead in space once again and the world will marvel,” Pence said.
“NASA will have the resources and support you need to continue to make history to push the boundary of human knowledge and advance American leadership to the boundless frontier of space.”