New NASA astronaut class welcomed by VP Pence at Johnson Space Center

HOUSTON – NASA has chosen 12 new astronauts from its biggest pool of applicants ever.

That included Loral O’Hara of Sugar Land, Texas.

The research engineer graduated from Clements High School in Sugar Land.

"Growing up in Houston, I had JSC right down the road. And I was able to visit often. And my second grade class even got to grow tomato plants that flew on the space shuttle. A program that I found out recently is going on today with students flying seeds on the ISS," O’Hara said.

Vice President Mike Pence attended Wednesday's announcement of the Astronaut Class of 2017 at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"For my part, it really is a joy, for this lifelong NASA fan to be standing here at the Johnson Space Center. On my birthday no less! This really is a special place. Think about it,” said Pence.

He promised the support of the U.S. government in continuing to fund NASA.

He said President Donald Trump wants to focus on deep space exploration and to work more with private industry.

But Wednesday, the focus was on the newly minted heroes.

"You 12 will be a part of our vanguard. You're the heroes. You're the patriots. The trailblazer and the best in American tradition," Pence said.

More than 18,300 people threw their hats into the space ring. That's more than double the previous record of 8,000, set in 1978 when the space shuttles were close to launching.

The seven men and five women selected Wednesday will join 44 astronauts already in the NASA corps. They are:

  • Barron, Kayla
  • Cardman, Zena
  • Chari, Raja
  • Dominick, Matthew
  • Hines, Bob
  • Hoburg, Warren
  • Kim, Jonny
  • Kulin, Robb
  • Moghbeli, Jasmin
  • O'Hara, Loral
  • Rubio, Frank
  • Watkins, Jessica

U.S. astronauts haven't launched from home soil since 2011. But that could change next year.

After two years of training, the newbies may end up riding commercial rockets to the International Space Station, or flying beyond the moon in NASA's Orion spacecraft. Their ultimate destination could be Mars.

Read more about all 12 of the astronauts here.

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