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One of these graduates could be the next man or woman to land on the Moon

HOUSTON – Amidst a montage of powerful images and unforgettable moments in space projected on a movie screen, NASA officials introduced the first group of astronauts to graduate from the Artemis program, which plans to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024.

They were 13 men and women, all from widely different backgrounds and professions, who beat out more than 18,000 other applicants and will makeup the next generation of NASA astronauts.

“You look at these men and women, the newest class of astronauts, and we may well be looking at the next person who will serve on the International Space Station or the next man or woman who will set foot on the Moon," Sen. Ted Cruz said.

Amongst this elite group is Sugar Land native Loral O’Hara, who has dreamed of being an astronaut since she was 8 years old.

“In the second grade, my class got to fly tomato plants on the space shuttle," she said. “I grew up going to NASA, and so it was kind of always a part of my life. So, I have been saying I want to be an astronaut since the 2nd grade.”

The 13 graduates include a fighter pilot, engineers and scientists.

After training for two years, in all aspects of space exploration, including how to spacewalk, these new astronauts said they are thrilled to have graduated here in Houston.

“Houston is where it all started," said Bob Hines, one of the new astronauts and Air Force fighter pilot. “The first word spoken from the Moon was Houston. Houston, the Eagle has landed is what was said. Houston is really the hub of all manned space flight.”