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Astronaut Candidates Learn About NASA Ames, Heat Shields, and More

NASA astronaut candidates visited the agency’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley to learn about the center’s unique facilities and contributions to NASA missions, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. Pictured here at the Arc Jet Complex, where spacecraft thermal protection systems are tested, are the 10 members of NASA’s current astronaut candidate class and two United Arab Emirates astronauts who are training with NASA. From left: Nichole Ayers, Mohammad Almulla (UAE), Marcos Berríos, Nora Almatrooshi (UAE), Deniz Burnham, Anil Menon, Jack Hathaway, Christopher Williams, Jessica Wittner, Luke Delaney, Andre Douglas, and Christina Birch.
NASA/Dominic Hart

NASA’s current class of astronaut candidates toured the agency’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, including a stop at the Arc Jet Complex, on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. In the arc jet facilities, Ames researchers test advanced materials that protect spacecraft from the extremely high temperatures of entering an atmosphere – whether Earth’s, Mars’, or another in our solar system.

Among the candidates aiming to join America’s astronaut corps are women and men who will potentially fly on future Artemis missions, performing science on the Moon and exploring the resources it holds. Work performed in the arc jet will help ensure all Artemis astronauts return home safely. For Artemis I, launched in November 2022, material used in the Orion crew module’s heat shield was tested here at Ames.

The astronaut candidates – including former Ames intern Deniz Burnham – also visited other Ames facilities, learning about their contributions to Artemis and more. These include wind tunnel testing and supercomputer simulations of the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket; development of the Astrobee free-flying robots that could assist future astronauts on missions; space biosciences research that will help keep crew healthy; and flight simulations at the Vertical Motion Simulator, where NASA’s human landing system program partners analyzed and improved early lander concepts to deliver humans to the lunar surface as part of the Artemis missions.