Nichole “Vapor” Ayers, Major, U.S. Air Force
Nichole Ayers was selected by NASA to join the 2021 Astronaut Candidate Class. She reports for duty in January 2022. The Colorado native graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. She later earned a master’s degree in computational and applied mathematics from Rice University in Houston. As one of the few women currently flying the F-22 Raptor, Ayers led the first-ever all-woman F-22 formation in combat in 2019.
Ayers and her twin sister, Cydnee, were born in San Diego, California, but she considers Colorado Springs and Divide, Colorado, home. Ayers and her husband, Justin, were married in New Zealand in early 2020 and enjoy sailing, camping, hiking, biking, and working on home projects together.
Graduated Woodland Park High School in Woodland Park, Colorado. Earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in Russian from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. Earned a master’s degree in computational and applied mathematics from Rice University in Houston, where her studies focused on computational fluid dynamics, specifically modeling incompressible fluid flow.
Ayers graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2011. There, she played Division I college volleyball all four years. Ayers also competed internationally on the USA Armed Forces Team while pursuing her master’s degree in 2012. She graduated from Rice University in 2013, graduated pilot training in 2014, and began flying the T-38A in the adversary squadron at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. She became an instructor pilot in the T-38, leading adversary missions that provided combat training for the F-22 Raptors at Langley, Virginia. Ayers graduated from the F-22 Basic Course in 2018 and is now an instructor pilot in the F-22. She has flown over 200 combat hours in Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Syria. Ayers has over 1,150 total flight hours in the T-38A/B/C and F-22 Raptor. At the time of her selection as a NASA astronaut candidate, she was the assistant director of operations in the 90th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.
Ayers was selected as a NASA astronaut candidate in December 2021 and reported for duty in January 2022 to complete two years of initial astronaut training.
Awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, the Aerial Achievement Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Operation Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal, and various other unit and service awards. Named distinguished graduate and graduated with academic distinction from the U.S. Air Force Academy. Distinguished graduate from undergraduate pilot training. Four-time Mountain West Conference Academic All-Conference and Scholar Athlete Award winner in women’s volleyball. The Air Force Academy Association of Graduates 2022 Young Alumni Excellence Award Winner.
United States Air Force Academy Association of Graduates. Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association. US Air Force Language Enabled Airman Program.