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Be a NASA Astronaut

Season 1Mar 20, 2020

NASA astronaut Kayla Barron and Anne Roemer, astronaut selection manager, deep dive into the astronaut selection process and astronaut candidate training while taking questions from social media during a live broadcast on March 6, 2020. HWHAP Episode 136.

Be a NASA Astronaut

Be a NASA Astronaut

If you’re fascinated by the idea of humans traveling through space and curious about how that all works, you’ve come to the right place.

“Houston We Have a Podcast” is the official podcast of the NASA Johnson Space Center from Houston, Texas, home for NASA’s astronauts and Mission Control Center. Listen to the brightest minds of America’s space agency – astronauts, engineers, scientists and program leaders – discuss exciting topics in engineering, science and technology, sharing their personal stories and expertise on every aspect of human spaceflight. Learn more about how the work being done will help send humans forward to the Moon and on to Mars in the Artemis program.

For Episode 136, NASA astronaut Kayla Barron and Anne Roemer, astronaut selection manager, deep dive into the astronaut selection process and astronaut candidate training while taking questions from social media during a live broadcast. This episode was aired live on March 6, 2020.

Houston, we have a podcast


Gary Jordan (Host): Houston, we have a podcast. Welcome to the official podcast of the NASA Johnson Space Center, Episode 136, “Be a NASA Astronaut,” I’m Gary Jordan; I’ll be your host today. On this podcast, we bring in the experts, scientists, engineers and astronauts all to let you know what’s going on in the world of Human Spaceflight. NASA is hiring a new class of astronauts. We’re looking for the best and the brightest for the Artemis Generation. What does that mean? It’s a new era of human spaceflight with new vehicles and new destinations. We’re looking for astronauts to train in the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the Boeing Starliner and the Orion deep space vehicle. Destinations will be in low-Earth orbit, around the Moon and walking on the lunar surface, all with the red planet on the horizon. So, who’s the right person for the job? Today we dive deep into the selection process and training for the Artemis Generation with Astronaut Selection Manager Anne Roemer, and NASA Astronaut Kayla Barron. This podcast was recorded and broadcasted live on March 6, and the astronaut applications close March 31. There’s still time to apply. In the meantime, let’s jump right to the action. Enjoy.

[ Music ]

Host: We are getting in front of the cameras today because if you haven’t heard, NASA is accepting applications to become an astronaut all throughout the month of March. So, we have got a lot of questions. And, again, we have great guests here that are going to be answering them for you live. Make sure you follow along with us on Facebook and Twitter and wherever else. We’ll be getting to your questions here in a second, but I’d like to first introduce our very special guest starting with Anne Roemer. Anne, welcome.

Anne Roemer: Thank you, glad to be here.

Host: You are the Manager of the Astronaut Selection Office, you know the ins and outs of the application process, and you’re there from the inside. In fact, you came on the podcast. You actually helped us kick it off with Episode 2.

Anne Roemer: I did.

Host: To talk about when we brought on the Astronaut 2017 Class.

Anne Roemer: I remember that very well.

Host: [laughs] Well, welcome back. Thank you. I’m curious to hear the insides of this.

Anne Roemer: Thanks. Glad to be here.

Host: We also have Kayla Barron. Hey, Karen.

Kayla Barron: Hi.

Host: [laughs] Karen– Kayla [laughs]. Kayla, you are among The Turtles, the Astronaut Class of 2017.

Kayla Barron: Yep.

Host: You went through this application process and competed against 18,000 other people, and you’re here and– surprise– part of The Turtles. You have a bachelor’s in systems engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy and a master’s in nuclear engineering from Cambridge. You’re a Marine Warfare Officer, and you just graduated two months ago. Congratulations.

Kayla Barron: Thank you, good to be here today.

Host: How’s life been after graduation?

Kayla Barron: It’s been awesome. We’ve been really busy doing lots of different jobs now that we’ve graduated, still in training as well. But it’s been a lot of fun to contribute to the office in a different way.

Host: Wonderful. OK, well, I have a lot of questions, but we also are going to be taking questions live from you, from the viewer, and we have Jennifer Hernandez standing by. Hey, Jennifer.

Jennifer Hernandez: Hey there, Gary. Hey, Kayla. Hey, Anne.

Host: Jennifer works with us in our Public Affairs Office. She’s also a fellow Penn Stater. We are.

Jennifer Hernandez: Penn State.

Host: Thank you.

Jennifer Hernandez: You’re welcome.

Host: We’re going to be taking questions live.

Anne Roemer: The Ohio is rolling her eyes [laughter].

Host: Well, the fellow Penn Stater is going to be taking questions.

Anne Roemer: I don’t know about that.

Host: Yeah, we’ll see.

Anne Roemer: No [laughs].

Host: From the web. Jennifer, do we have any questions to start us off?

Jennifer Hernandez: We sure do. We have one from Twitter from Selery. “What do you have to do to stand out from all the other applicants?”

Host: Oh, that’s a good question.

Anne Roemer: I think that question is to me.

Host: Yeah.

Anne Roemer: Yeah, no. I’m just teasing. Right, so we are looking for a lot of information on the resume that folks fill out. So, I would start by saying, right, we want people to be very detailed as they describe their work experience and other experiences. We also give applicants an opportunity to describe hobbies and interests that they have, and we encourage applicants to put as much information there as possible as well. When you’re reviewing 18,000 applications, sometimes it’s the weird stuff that stands out honestly, an interesting hobby or an interesting project at work that, right, an applicant may think, “Oh, that’s just what I do.” And so really, we’re looking for them to give us as much information as possible.

Host: Ok.

Anne Roemer: So that’s a starting point.

Host: That’s a starting point for standing out.

Anne Roemer: Yeah. Yup.

Host: Let’s get into the details of what you need just in the first place.

Anne Roemer: OK, yeah.

Host: Let’s start from the very minimum requirements. What are you looking for as a minimum requirement —

Anne Roemer: Sure.

Host: –To become a NASA astronaut?

Anne Roemer: The minimum requirements are pretty straightforward, Gary. We require a master’s degree, and that’s actually something that’s new this year. We have always stated in our application process that advanced degrees are preferred. This is just trying to be a little bit more overt in what we’re looking for, and the majority of astronauts hired have had a master’s degree or beyond or test pilot school. They also, beyond the degree, have to have at least two years of professional experience. And then being a U.S. government agency, we also require U.S. citizenship.

Host: Ah, very important.

Anne Roemer: Yep.

Host: OK, so, yeah, master’s degree. I guess you had to deal with the 18,000 applications last time, right, but it turns out, I guess, this 2017 class had a lot of masters anyway.

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Host: Is it sort of just narrowing in on what–

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Host: You already know that you’re looking for?

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Host: OK.

Anne Roemer: And the announcement– I encourage applicants to review the announcement online. It’s got a lot of specifics that can count towards, right, if they’re in a PhD program and have a certain number of hours that can count towards a master’s degree etc. So, read the announcement. It’s got all the information that folks need to know whether they’re qualified or not.

Host: Yeah. Now, this might be a stupid question, but STEM. Now, you know, we always talk about STEM.

Anne Roemer: We do.

Host: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math– Why Science, Technology, Engineering, Math? I’m a marketing major. I want to go to space [laughs]. Why can’t I go?

Anne Roemer: I’ve heard that from a lot of people lately [laughs]. Right, the core component of what we’re asking folks to do and to train– And Kayla can probably speak to this as well. Right, there’s a technological component of that. And so, a lot of the jobs at NASA require that STEM background so.

Host: OK, yeah.

Anne Roemer: It’s important.

Host: Well, how has it helped you, Kayla, with just some of your astronaut candidate training, having that STEM background? How has it helped you in just the first few years of training?

Kayla Barron: That’s a really good question. I think, in our training, we’re really generalists. We’re asked to understand and be able to operate in a lot of different contexts, whether that’s learning how to operate systems on the space station or fly a T-38 or even work in Mission Control. And so, I think having, you know, a STEM background of some kind helps give you sort of the baseline skills you need to understand those things because a lot gets thrown at you really fast. So, having a foundation that, even though people come from a lot of different areas, whether that’s geology, microbiology, engineering, aviation, different parts of the military, medicine, it kind of gives you a starting point to approach a lot of those problems.

Host: Yeah, that’s huge because you have to train on so many different areas, right, so having a baseline to be able to tackle all of these different problems, STEM is probably one of the best ways to do that. Very interesting. So, you talked about related experiences, Anne.

Anne Roemer: Yes.

Host: So, I’m assuming it has to deal with the related experience of what you have a degree in?

Anne Roemer: Yeah, right.

Host: OK.

Anne Roemer: There’s some flexibility, for example, though, right, finishing your degree and your master’s degree and going and working as a ski instructor although fun and wonderful, we wouldn’t count that towards the two-year professional experience. So, it’d need to be in a discipline ideally equated with the degree we see, right, some of the more general physics is an example. You can get a degree in physics and do a lot of different things, so we’re looking for that technology experience, that technological experience beyond the degree.

Host: Beyond the degree. OK, now what if you’re a pilot? Is there a little bit different scenario there?

Anne Roemer: Sure. Pilots. You know, and it’s interesting. We still use– And Kayla, I’m sure, will talk about this as well– we still use the T-38 as a training vehicle, and so we do still have pilot astronauts in the Astronaut Office. If applying as a pilot, folks need to have a minimum of a 1,000 hours of pilot and command hours in a high-performance jet aircraft.

Host: OK, and, Kayla, I’m guessing, now, you were not a pilot. You have various engineering degrees, but you’re training in the T-38 anyway.

Kayla Barron: Yeah, so our class has a number of pilots, but also a number of people from different backgrounds. My background is in the Submarine Force in the Navy. So, after graduating from my master’s program, I went through the Navy’s nuclear power training and then worked in a very operational context aboard submarines deploying in the Pacific. So, I was kind of applying engineering. That’s how I got my, you know, years of professional experience that Anne is talking about. But when we come here, even if you’re not a pilot, you learn how to fly. So, we train to fly in the backseat of the T-38 originally in a role kind of doing communications and navigation. But once we get qualified, we also help fly the jet too. So, we use it as an opportunity to train with other crewmates, other astronauts to learn how to communicate when you’re in a high-risk environment, operating real machinery, make decisions when things aren’t going according to plan and things like that.

Host: So, you feel like this communication aspect has got to be a big part of being an astronaut because what we’re talking about now is when we’re talking about this new class of astronauts, and we can actually bring up the application here in a second. But we’re talking about this Artemis Generation. You’re talking about people who are going to be going to different planets and have to live together for a long period of time. They have to coexist. So, getting along with your crewmates has got to be pretty important. Do you find that in The Turtles?

Kayla Barron: Absolutely.

Host: Or do you guys get along with each other? [Laughs]

Kayla Barron: Yeah, we get along really great. I think graduation was really fun for us, as a group, because it was just a huge accomplishment for us as a team.

Host: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: I mean, you get here, and you start training, and a lot is being asked of you, and most of our evaluations are really about our individual skills and performance. Your kind of in the hot seat alone, but we chose to approach our training as a team and wanted everybody to get to the finish line together. And that made a huge difference for us because everybody had something that they were really naturally good at. And everyone also on the other side had something that was harder for them that they might have expected. And so, having the support of your peers made all of the difference in the world.

Host: Wow.

Kayla Barron: And we also do specific training geared towards getting to know each other and become good teammates. We do things like we went on a backpacking course with [National Outdoor Leadership School] NOLS in the Canyonlands in Utah. That was really fun. We also incorporate that kind of training whenever we’re doing other kinds of training as well. So, we get that kind of training in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab when you’re working with a teammate practicing spacewalk skills or things like our geology training, where we go out in the field and try to learn about the geology of our planet so that we can apply that in future exploration. But a lot of that is about working as a team, doing that in a group and taking advantage of everybody’s skillsets to accomplish a mission.

Host: I really want to go into what it’s like just these first couple years, but, first, I want to take a look at the application and see what people can actually do. So, in order to go to apply to be an astronaut– Thank you, Jennifer, for taking us here. We’re going to take a look at USAJobs. If you’re looking to apply to become an astronaut, I would assume you would just search the title “astronaut.” There it is. Astronaut candidate. OK, because you’re a candidate for the first couple of years. OK. So, you would go there. You would click on Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. That’s where we are today. And here you go. This is the application process. And, actually, I’ve gone through this a couple times. It’s pretty dense. There’s a lot to it, a lot of different responsibilities. My favorite, though, is that one right there, extensive travel required [laughs]. Kayla, I’m sure you’re going to have to go many different places all over the world, outside of the world. There’s going to be an expectation of being a NASA astronaut. Let’s see, specialize. OK, here’s a good section right here, the degree fields when related to sciences because– OK, that’s a good point because we’re talking about STEM, right? We’ve said that.

Anne Roemer: Yup.

Host: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. Degrees in technology are actually not considered qualifying. That’s interesting. But it looks like even some sciences though. Looking at what’s not considered qualifying, give me some examples of different engineering, math, sciences that you’re looking for.

Anne Roemer: So, right. I think engineering we probably see the majority of degrees coming from aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering. Kayla’s sitting here next to me with system’s engineering.

Host: System’s.

Anne Roemer: And also, nuclear engineering. So, I think the majority of engineering disciplines we’ve probably had applications or candidates come from. In the science arena, right, we have biological science majors. We have the physical science majors. We see a lot of applications from medical doctors, and that’s an important skillset for the Astronaut Office to have and continue to have available to us as we look at putting together long-duration crews etc. So, yeah, most of the degrees that aren’t qualifying are listed there. You know, as curriculums change, and majors evolve, if there’s ever any doubt, we actually do research the degree program and look at the amount of math and science classes that are required. So, if there is a questionable degree, we actually do the research and make sure that it would be qualifying.

Host: OK. Now, Kayla, what made you want to pursue systems engineering and then nuclear engineering? When you were in school, what were you thinking about?

Kayla Barron: Anne probably knows this from perusing applications, but [laughs] systems engineering means a lot of different things in a lot of different universities. At the Naval Academy, it’s actually control systems and robotics engineering, so I was attracted to that major initially because it was super interdisciplinary. I liked electrical engineering. I liked coding, and I liked doing things with an application focus. And so that was a good fit for me because I got to dabble in a lot of different types of engineering and also work on bringing those disciplines together to accomplish something really tangible, and I found that really attractive. And then during my time at the Naval Academy, I got really interested in climate change and new energy technologies that would help us deal with that longer term. And I came to feel that nuclear was a huge part of that future, you know, developing new nuclear generation technologies that had better waste management profiles that were safer and all these other things. And so that’s why I wanted to do that in grad school. So, I went and did a research degree helping develop the fuel cycle for a reactor that hopefully we’ll build someday soon.

Host: See, that’s interesting because what you’re talking about, you were passionate when you’re pursuing systems. You were just passionate about systems engineering and when you were pursuing nuclear, you were just passionate. It seems like astronaut wasn’t even on your mind at the time.

Kayla Barron: Yeah, you know, that’s a good question.

Host: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: A lot of my colleagues wanted to be astronauts from when they were a little kid and that they definitely were making choices to pursue things they were passionate about too, but always with the mind of keeping those doors open for themselves.

Host: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: By studying the right things, maybe joining the military. There’s a lot of different tracks to get to these seats, but for me, I was always looking towards challenging myself as much as I could in each subsequent opportunity. So, astronaut wasn’t really a thing in the back of my mind. It was something I always thought was really cool but didn’t really picture myself doing. And so, I actually didn’t become inspired to apply until after I had served on a submarine. When I left my submarine, I went back to the Naval Academy to work there, and I got to meet a lot of really interesting people, including a couple of astronauts. And chatting with them, talking about the time when they were building the space station, I found it really fascinating because it reminded me a lot of the equipment that we use on submarines. You’re also trying to keep people alive in an environment where they shouldn’t exist, you know, whether your hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean or, you know, hundreds of miles above the surface of the Earth. And so that really inspired me because I started thinking of the space station as a submarine in space [laughter]. And the astronauts who I talked to really encouraged me to keep thinking about that, and once it stuck in my mind, it became something that I could actually picture myself doing because I felt the role was so similar. And so, for me it was just always about pursuing things I was passionate about and that would be challenging. Because if I was doing something I liked, even if it was hard, I was going to enjoy it and get the most out of it and find it the most fulfilling. So, I think something you see around our office and especially in our class is everybody who was hired was doing something that they really loved.

Anne Roemer: Loved.

Kayla Barron: You know?

Host: Yep.

Kayla Barron: That they, obviously, got their dream job by getting the call to come and be an astronaut, and they would never trade that for anything. But we all, in some ways, really miss what we were doing before because we were pursuing things we were passionate about. And so, I think that’s a common thread you see across the Astronaut Office.

Anne Roemer: And I think that’s right. Kayla hits upon a point. I think that’s one of the best pieces of advice we can give folks and even especially young folks who may still be aspiring to pursue a STEM degree etc., is pursue something that you’re passionate about and that you enjoy. We receive thousands of applications to be an astronaut, right, and obviously only a limited number are chosen. But it really resonates when folks get invited in and come in to interview that they’re happy in their jobs, and they’ve liked what they’ve done, and, right, they’ve put their heart and soul into it.

Host: Yeah, that seems to be a pretty consistent theme, right?

Anne Roemer: Yeah, yeah.

Host: So not only do they have the qualifications to become a NASA astronaut, but they were good, and they would be happy in this job that they had in the first place because you’re picking the people that are best in their field, right, so, you know, systems engineering, nuclear engineering. You were one of the best in that field with the confined spaces and living in those areas. So, yeah, you pulled that. But even if you were still on the submarine, you would still be happy.

Kayla Barron: Yeah, absolutely. And I think we get questions about that a lot.

Host: Yeah.

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: I mean, people say should I major in aerospace engineering or mechanical engineering? And you’re like, “Which one do you like?” [laughs] A lot of times college students ask me, “Should I take Russian?” I’m like, “Do you want to learn Russian or?” You know, they’re just trying to see, like, do I need to be checking these boxes? And it’s, like, Anne was saying, you do have to choose certain fields, but there’s a broad range —

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: –of things you can do. And you just look at our class as an example. We have everything from, you know, emergency medicine physicians to Mars geologists to microbiologists that study cave slime and a bunch of different military roles too.

Host: Right.

Kayla Barron: So, there’s a lot of different paths to get to be, you know, a competitive applicant for the Astronaut Office.

Host: Now, of course, we’re talking about degrees. I think we have a really good question about, just physical fitness from the web. Jennifer, do we have a question about physical fitness?

Jennifer Hernandez: On Twitter from Marie. “Are there particular exercises or fitness regimes a person ought to do if they wish to apply to be an astronaut in the future?”

Host: OK, so I guess just, yeah, about fitness. Kayla, do you have any recommendations on just exercises or fitness?

Kayla Barron: You know, it’s really interesting. In our office there are people who are passionate about a whole range of different fitness approaches, whether they like to run or do triathlons or participate more in team sports. Everybody has sort of their own thing they’re passionate about doing and have fun doing. And it’s important to be fit, of course, and healthy because flying in space puts a lot of stress on your body. But there’s no, like, particular aspect, I think, that you have to do. I think investing in your own fitness and health is super important, but you can do that a lot of different ways.

Host: OK, yeah, so it’s just– Once again, here’s that same theme; finding something you’re passionate about, whether it’s cycling, whether it’s swimming, whether it’s weightlifting. Finding that thing and just having that be a habit for you, to maintain that fitness consistently throughout your time as an astronaut.

Kayla Barron: Yeah, and we actually have trainers here at NASA who specialized in advising us both when we’re in space, but also preparing to go to space and then recovering when we get home. And that’s what they encourage. They say, “What do you like to do? What are you going to do consistently?” because that’s way better than us prescribing, you know, a very specific regimen that you’re not going to stick to.

Host: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: And, obviously, when you are on the space station, for example, there’s only specific equipment’s, –[laughs] But that being said they believe that you can prepare in a lot of different ways.

Host: OK, so let’s talk about just coming in, right? We talked about the application process. We talked about the minimum applications. Kayla, let’s talk about that first time where you got the call that says, “Hey, we’re ready for you to come in and keep interviewing.” [Laughter] What was that like, those first rounds of interviews?

Anne Roemer: The best experience of your life, right?

Kayla Barron: Every time I got a call, whether it was from Anne letting me know I was invited for an interview or the final call letting me know I was selected, I kind of always was like, “Are you sure you have the right number?” [laughter] You know, it’s, like, very.

Anne Roemer: Double-checked?

Kayla Barron: Yeah, the whole process is very exciting, but also very intimidating. You know, there are a lot of impressive people that apply, and the selection panel is made up of really impressive people here at NASA, both in and out of the Astronaut Office. And for me, especially because it was such a new thing and I didn’t really, you know, chart my course specifically after that, I was always just amazed that they were still interested in meeting and talking to me more. So, I feel really grateful to be here, and every time they called me, I was really grateful that they were giving me, you know, a shot at it for sure.

Host: So, beyond your expertise in your field– and it seems like humility is one of those qualities that’s actually a nice thing to have in an astronaut?

Anne Roemer: Yeah, right, it is. Certainly, I think there are a lot of qualities that go in it, right? We’re looking for good humans is kind of the phrase I’ve been using, right, good at communicating, good at interpersonal skills and interacting with others, leadership, but also knowing how to follow. Right, a lot of what an astronaut does on orbit is follow directions down to, you know, dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. And so, we’re looking for a lot of those intangible qualities about people. I think having sat on the board a couple of times, right, a lot of the astronauts are sitting around that table, you know, looking at you thinking, “Would I want to fly in space with Kayla, [laughs] or am I getting vibes that, right, she’d drive me crazy?” So, I mean, I think that’s really can’t be understated, the importance of that when it comes down to the interview face.

Host: A huge question is would I want to fly with this person?

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Host: Not is this person capable of flying?

Anne Roemer: Right.

Host: Would I want to fly with this person?

Anne Roemer: Yeah, I mean, we don’t get really any applications from, right, people coming in with astronaut-like experience. As Kayla mentioned, we do lot of the training for what they need to be an astronaut. So, a lot of the intangible skills and competencies are equally important.

Host: Kayla, tell me about the call when you found out– You’re going on through this interview process. You’re saying, “Do I even deserve to be here?” but you got selected. Tell me about the call.

Kayla Barron: Yeah, so for me I was serving at the Naval Academy for a couple years kind of between tours on submarines. I was expecting to go back to a submarine to be an engineer and, you know, deploy a bunch more times. And that’s kind of what I thought I would end up doing, but at the time I was working at the Naval Academy for the superintendent, the admiral that runs that institution. And it was during graduation week. It was the day before graduation for the senior class, so it was very busy, and we were at a formal military parade where all of the midshipmen, you know, thousands of midshipmen march onto the field in their fancy uniforms. It’s a very, like, ceremonial event, and I had to participate in it because I was the admiral’s assistant. So, I would go out there and help, you know, coordinate the official party and all that. And I was so nervous that I would get the call during that one time in the day where I really couldn’t have my phone [laughs] because I’m standing at attention in front of hundreds of people watching this parade. And sure enough I got back to my phone, right, after the parade, and four minutes before that I had a missed call. And my boss, Admiral Carter, was like, “You got to call them back. You got to call them back.” And I was like, “Sir, you can’t call this number back. It’s like a generic, you know, JSC number is the way it shows up on your phone. I was like, “I think I just got to wait.” And so about 45 minutes later, they must have cycled back through the rotation and called me again because we knew they were going to call us on that day to let us know one way or another if we got selected. And we had heard the, you know, the applicant rumor mill that if either Bryan Kelly, BK, or Chris Cassidy called you, that probably meant you were getting selected. So, I answered the phone.

Anne Roemer: I get to make the bad phone calls [laughs].

Host: Oh, you made the bad phone calls?

Kayla Barron: Yeah, so that was the rumor. So, I answered the phone, and it was BK and Chris, but, of course.

Anne Roemer: Yeah, I got to listen in.

Kayla Barron: Yeah, of course, you’re, like, you know, you don’t want to get too excited until you actually hear the words. And I just remember BK asking, “Kayla, we’re calling to see if you still want to come down to Houston to be a part of the next class.” And it is, like, just the easiest question in the whole world [laughter], so you’re just like “Absolutely.”

Host: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: But it’s a pretty short call. You know, they’re just like, “Hey, do you still want to do this?” And you’re like, “Of course.” I can’t imagine anyone saying no at that point.

Host: Right.

Kayla Barron: But, yeah, I was just so pumped, high-fived Admiral Carter [laughs], called my husband and let him know, and we were just really excited.

Host: Wow, and you got to be a part of that?

Anne Roemer: Yeah. I get to at least listen in on the good phone calls too, yeah.

Kayla Barron: You deserve that after making bad calls.

Anne Roemer: Thanks, thanks, thanks, yeah.

Host: I got to imagine, though, just, you know, you have to narrow it down to 12 people for this 2017 class, 12 people out of 18,000 applicants. Even just narrowing it down there, where did it go from down to 12? Was it, like, 50 or something and you went from 50 down to 12? That had to be hard just by itself.

Anne Roemer: Well, each step in the process, it gets a little more difficult.

Host: Yeah.

Anne Roemer: To continue narrowing it down. Certainly, there are multiple steps in the process that help us narrow this down. Typically, right, multiple sets of reviewing applications. We do two rounds of interviews actually. So, we, typically, bring around 120 folks in for the first round of interviews. And then from there we kind of keep squeezing the numbers. We have about generally between 40 and 50 that come back for the second round, and then that gradually gets us into whatever number we’re going to select.

Host: That’s got to be tough. All right let’s see what we have online. Jennifer, do we have any questions from some of our viewers?

Jennifer Hernandez: We sure do. We have one from M31 on Twitter. “Can physicians be astronauts?”

Host: Physicians, OK, doctors.

Anne Roemer: Yes, yes, yes.

Host: Is there any type of physician that is, you know, pediatrician or internal medicine or emergency medicine?

Anne Roemer: Yeah, we’ve seen applications from a wide range of physicians, so I can’t think of, you know, the medical degree in and of itself, whether an M.D. or a D.O. is qualifying.

Host: Wonderful, OK. Yeah, and that meets those requirements of a master’s degree and meets those requirements of science, technology, engineering, math.

Anne Roemer: Yup.

Host: And, of course, you have to be a U.S. citizen.

Anne Roemer: Yup.

Host: OK, so, Kayla. You got selected. You came to NASA. I’m sure that was the whole process of moving and your first day and everything. Tell me about some of the training you went through. We talked about T-38 training, which is in the plane, but what are some of the other things you’re doing in your first few years as an astronaut candidate?

Kayla Barron: Yes, there basically six big areas we’re training in. You mentioned T-38. We also do sort of basic spacewalk training. That’s mostly done in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, where you train underwater in a spacesuit. We also do robotics operations training, learn how to operate the robotic arm that’s on the space station. We learn all about space station systems and how to operate, you know, the cooling systems, the electrical systems and how to respond when something breaks, so to prepare for a mission on the space station. We all learn to speak Russian, which is a challenge for many of us.

Host: I hear that’s one of the harder ones.

Kayla Barron: Yeah, it’s tough. I mean, some people are natural language learners, and some, like me, are not [laughter], but we are lucky that we have very talented and patient instructors to help us through that. And then the sixth area that we sometimes don’t mention, but I really think we should, is expeditionary skills training or teamwork training really.

Anne Roemer: Teamwork, yeah.

Kayla Barron: And we touched on that a bit earlier, but I think that’s such a huge component of what we do here at NASA. You know, you can be technically qualified in a lot of ways, but if you’re not able to work effectively with people from different backgrounds, if you’re not able to, you know, address and move on from conflict, if you’re not able to figure out how to bring out the best in yourself and others to really be a high-functioning team, then we’re really doing a disservice to, you know, the whole country and world, you know, being one of these.

Host: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: Getting this huge opportunity.

Host: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: To work off the planet, I think we owe it to everyone to be our best selves and work as a team to accomplish the mission.

Host: Now, I’m sure that takes quite a long time. Let’s see if we have any questions about training online.

Kayla Barron: Sure.

Host: Jennifer, do we have any questions?

Jennifer Hernandez: Yeah, speaking of training, we have Anna from Twitter. “How long does the training process take?”

Host: OK, yeah, how long?

Kayla Barron: Our initial training is about two years.

Host: OK.

Kayla Barron: And then that’s where we accomplish our exams in all of the areas I just talked about.

Host: OK.

Kayla Barron: And qualify to become astronauts. So, when you graduate, you go from being an astronaut candidate to an astronaut and being eligible for a mission assignment. But, really, you keep training your entire time because there’s a long time between your, you know, getting hired and your first mission, but also between your missions. And so, we are constantly continuing to train in all of the areas I talked about so that when you are assigned to a specific mission, you’re ready to go and do more advanced training with your actual crewmates to get ready to fly.

Host: So, what are some of the things that might be in the realm of advanced training? Like, what are you going to be zeroing in on?

Kayla Barron: Yeah, so we’re kind of doing basic generic skills during our astronaut candidate training, kind of just the foundation upon which we can build later. But when we get assigned to a specific mission, instead of just learning, you know, generically about what’s in the U.S. Laboratory Module on the space station, we’ll be actually practicing setting up experiments we’ll do. We’ll be practicing more with how to do photography and how to operate, you know, all the equipment that we might actually be using and then our spacewalk training becomes really specialized too. If there’s a spacewalk planned for that mission, we’ll start training those very specific procedures basically as a dress rehearsal for doing it in real life.

Host: OK, so you’re past the phase where you, during astronaut candidate training, you’re just developing the basic skills. Now it’s just when you get to assign to a mission you can learn kind of exactly what you’ll be doing?

Kayla Barron: Exactly.

Host: So, whether it’s changing a battery or whether it’s installing new science hardware, you’ll specialize in that?

Kayla Barron: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Host: OK, very cool. Now you graduated recently too?

Kayla Barron: Mm-hmm.

Host: That was a pretty cool event to see I’ll say just because what was unique– And at least for me in a selfish way– I got to interview you guys when you came on and then two years later, there you are on the stage, you know, graduating. How was that, just the event, just was it significant to you in the sense that, “wow, I actually did this”?

Kayla Barron: Yeah, you know, like I kind of mentioned before, I think the coolest part for us was the class experience of graduating, of kind of getting to that point that the senior astronauts in the office were saying they trusted us to continue on. And that meant a lot to us, you know, having Pat Forrester, the chief of the office give us our silver astronaut pen. And Jeremy Hansen, our class supervisor who was kind of our guide through the day-to-day life of being an astronaut candidate. You know, it meant a lot to get to that stage together and to be on the cusp of the next phase of our careers as young astronauts. So, it was a big deal, in that sense, and it was also a really cool opportunity, really, to acknowledge and thank the people who selected us, the people who supported us in training, our instructors our mentors and, of course, our families. Without their support we wouldn’t have the opportunity to come here and do this amazing thing. So, I think for us, it was a team success and also a chance to acknowledge the people who built us up to get there in the first place.

Host: Wonderful, must have been cool for you too, Anne, to see because you selected them, and there they were on the stage.

Anne Roemer: I was very proud, proud moment.

Host: Yeah.

Anne Roemer: And I was grateful to be in the audience.

Host: Very cool. Now, you know, I’m sure you’re reflecting at this time of graduation on some of the training and just what you had to go through. You talked about this diverse set of experiences. And you got to do it with some of your crewmates. You even told stories on the stage of just your time together. Do you have memorable moment from those two years maybe during, you know, the geology trips or maybe a particular time during one of the spacewalks or the NBL, the neutral buoyancy testing?

Kayla Barron: Yeah, you know, there’s almost too many to count, like —

Host: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: It’s such a wonderful group to be a part of. I feel so lucky that I get to come to work every day and work with my colleagues in my class and Astronaut Office and in the larger NASA community. Like, everyone is here because they’re really passionate about it. People choose to work here at Johnson Space Center. People choose to dedicate their lives to human space exploration. And it’s just always such a supportive and exciting team to be a part of. I think for most of us, our favorite memories from training are things that we did in the field. A lot of us think of our time on that backpacking trip with NOLS that we did as kind of a keystone experience for us because we already knew each other really well, but kind of working in that more extreme context of having to figure out where we’re going to get water, how to cook our food together, and just, you know, traversing in the back country, making decisions and supporting each other, kind of seeing everybody at their best and their worst. Hopefully, Johnny would think it’s OK for me to tell [laughs] this story, but one of my favorite moments from that trip, we– So there’s not much water in that part of Utah. A lot of times your kind of scooping it out of these little pot holes in the rock, just, like, an inch thick of water, trying to fill your, you know, various vessels for the day. So, it was kind of hard to get water sometimes. But one night, it started just this torrential downpour of rain. And it was cold and we’re all huddled sort of under this overhang, trying to stay dry. And Johnny’s tromping around in the puddles [laughs]. He’s wearing this big camouflage poncho. And I just remember looking up at him, and my headlamp was shining on him. It was dark. And he was using his poncho as a funnel to shoot rain water into all the water bottles and pots and pans. And he just looked up at me with this really excited look on his face and said, “Kayla, look at all this free water!” [laughs] And it made me laugh so hard because it’s just, like, it’s in those moments where people are cold and tired and, you know, maybe a little bit bummed out. And seeing one of your peers, your teammates, like, literally the glass is half full for him [laughs], you know, he’s just like, “Look at all this free water.” And, you’re like, you can think, like, “Oh, it’s cold, terrible rain,” but for him he was choosing to see it from a different perspective. And that’s the kind of teammate you really want in those hard moments because all of a sudden, everyone’s laughing. Everyone’s moral is boosted and that’s just Johnny being Johnny, you know, Johnny being himself and being willing to share himself with us really brought the team out of, you know, a tough moment. And so, its things like that that you just always think about.

Host: Yeah, you know, you can say, “Oh, you need these team skills” all you want, but it’s stories like that that really lock it in.

Kayla Barron: Yup.

Host: Just like when things are really down, being able to rely on each other and knowing each other’s strength’s weaknesses, ups, downs, knowing what everyone’s going through– That’s critical to the success of a mission because it’s just you up there.

Anne Roemer: It’s a great story.

Host: That’s a wonderful story. Yeah, so this is what you’re talking about.

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Host: When you talk about your interpersonal skills. I’m sure that’s a big part of the interview process just by itself is just how, not only who they are and understanding their background.

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Host: But how they’re interacting with each other.

Anne Roemer: Yeah, we get asked a lot, right?

Host: Yeah.

Anne Roemer: What advice can you give somebody who’s been invited to do an interview? And, right, again, the advice comes to just be yourself, right, and you’re not trying to kind of fake your way through the interview process being someone you’re not. We’re really looking for people who are genuine and real. So, if, you know, having interviewed Johnny, that story doesn’t really surprise me [laughs]. It’s exactly what I would have expected from him.

Kayla Barron: Yeah, I remember coming down for my first interview, and we came down in groups of ten for our class. And meeting all the other candidates, I was just so blown away by how talented and wonderful all of them were. And it’s hard not to feel a little bit of imposter syndrome, you know. And you’re like, what am I doing here? Like, what did they really see in me? And kind of wondering, you know, when I go into that interview room and sit at the end of this long table with all of these astronauts and senior NASA officials, like, what are they looking for? What do they want from me? And I remember going into my interview– For some reason the last thing I thought before I walked into the door was I said, “Don’t make any jokes.” [laughs] Because I was so worried I was going to say something sarcastic or whatever.

Host: Oh, yeah?

Kayla Barron: You know, show my sense of humor, and it wouldn’t be received the right way because they didn’t know me very well. And I sat down and we were talking, and it didn’t take long before Tonto, Reid Wiseman, made some sort of joke at me and just instinctually, you know, that’s just how you interact– He’s an Naval officer too —

Host: Oh, yeah.

Kayla Barron: That’s just how you interact, you kind of talk trash to each other.

Anne Roemer: You dished it back.

Kayla Barron: I dished it right back at him. And there was this moment of silence and I was like, oh, no that was the one I wasn’t supposed to do [laughs]. But then Kjell Lindgren started laughing.

Anne Roemer: Yeah, yeah.

Kayla Barron: Everyone started laughing and it just relaxed me, and I just went, “You know?” in that moment.

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: Really quick I was just like, “You know, I’m just going to be myself, and if that’s what they’re looking for, awesome. I’ll feel authentic in doing it, and if not, they probably know that too.”

Anne Roemer: Right, yeah.

Kayla Barron: So that’s OK. And so that moment really helps me just be, like, be a human, be myself.

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: Show who you are.

Anne Roemer: Good human.

Kayla Barron: And that’ll carry the day, or it won’t. And so that sort of healthy fatalism of just be yourself, be honest about who you are I think goes a long way.

Host: Yeah, because when you’re thinking about, “Can these people work together?” there’s that level of authenticity that you’re looking for. Because you’re not looking for–

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Host: –Just facade whenever you’re selecting an astronaut. You want to know the true person because ultimately, to that story you just told with Jonny Kim, it’s going to be relying on that person, so you want to know that person and who they really are, not just a facade of who they are.

Anne Roemer: Yep.

Host: Let’s see if there’s another question. Jennifer, do we have another question from online?

Jennifer Hernandez: We sure do from Stephanie Jackson on Twitter. “Is there an age limit of applying to be an astronaut?”

Host: That’s a popular one.

Anne Roemer: There is not an age limit, and that includes, right, a floor and a ceiling. There are no limits. Folks need to meet the minimum requirements. You know, the requirement comes in as we get down to the final group. Candidates have to be able to pass NASA’s long-duration spaceflight physical, and provided they can do that, that’s all good.

Host: That’s the core? That’s the core of it?

Anne Roemer: Yep, yeah.

Host: Not an age but just the skillset and the ability.

Anne Roemer: Correct, correct.

Host: Yeah, I understand. Now, Kayla, you talked about this camaraderie. That makes me think of just your class name, The Turtles. Why are you called The Turtles? Did you name that together as a group?

Kayla Barron: No, there is a long tradition of the class just above you.

Host: Oh.

Kayla Barron: Gives you your class nickname. So, for us, the 2013 class the “8 balls” were in charge of giving us our nickname. And it’s kind of, I think, comes a bit from aviation call sign or nickname. Tradition where there’s always more than one meaning. But the inspiration for the name actually came from the vice president’s speech that he gave at our announcement. He was talking about how, you know, our families and friends had supported us in order to be there on that stage that day. And he used a metaphor that if you see a box turtle on a fence post, you know it didn’t get there on its own. And so that was the original genesis of the call sign, the nickname.

Host: Because you guys didn’t get there on your own. It was the support of everyone around you.

Kayla Barron: Yeah.

Host: That helped you to get you to that point?

Kayla Barron: Yeah.

Host: Very, cool.

Anne Roemer: And a lot of times, the names have always been things that don’t fly, correct?

Kayla Barron: Yeah, [unintelligible].

Anne Roemer: Turtles don’t fly. They’re slow.

Kayla Barron: Turtles don’t fly. They’re slow.

Anne Roemer: Sometimes they need to be back in their shell etc.

Kayla Barron: Yeah.

Host: OK, so there’s, yeah.

Anne Roemer: There’s always a double meaning.

Host: There’s always a double meaning.

Anne Roemer: Yes.

Host: That’s hilarious. Now let’s zoom in on this class that you’re looking for, Anne, because we’re talking about this next class, right? I love the stories of the 2017 Class.

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Host: It keeps getting referred to as the Artemis Generation. Let’s just start there. What does that mean? What are we looking for?

Anne Roemer: So, I’m optimistic that most people know that we’re trying to go back to the Moon by 2024. And certainly, to us that’s just the next stopping point. I hope we’re on our way to Mars. Beyond that I think that’s the long-term goal. And so, Artemis is kind of the umbrella for the missions that will take us back to the Moon.

Host: OK, so is there differences that, you know, from different classes, just from thinking about International Space Station crews.

Anne Roemer: Sure.

Host: Are we, you know, are we talking about being together? And I keep going back to this interpersonal skills and getting along with each other because how I imagine this going is they’re going to be together by themselves for really long periods of time.

Anne Roemer: Eventually, yeah. So, right, surprisingly what we’ve looked for whether looking back through the shuttle selection era, through International Space Station on to the Moon and hopefully onto Mars. The skillset that we’ve looked for really hasn’t changed that much, right? The intangible skills have remained pretty consistent, right? And we’ve hit upon one of them extensively today, which is being a good teammate and understanding, really, what that means. Sometimes, it may mean leading the team. Sometimes, it may mean being a follower on the team, etc. And so really what we’ve been focusing on with this class isn’t really much different than what we’ve always focused on in astronaut selection.

Host: OK, that’s good to know.

Anne Roemer:Mm-hmm.

Host: I want to zoom in on the technical aspect because I do keep going back to this theme of team aspect because I find it really fascinating. But just having a systems engineering background, having a nuclear engineering background, I want to be able to understand better just the application, maybe that you found in your training, just, you know, taking your classes and going through the brutal courses of what it takes to become a systems engineer bachelor’s and then a nuclear engineer master’s, things that you found, the skills that you’ve taken from that, that are directly applicable to some of your early astronaut training.

Kayla Barron: Sure. You know, for me I think my formal education in engineering really taught me how to think critically about tough problems, how to come up with ideas and test them and how to take in a lot of data and parse out from that useful information upon which I could make a decision. But I think for me, I’m constantly leaning on my experience in the Navy at which, of course, my education informed as well. A submarine is a very technical, crazy, complicated machine. And whether that’s working on the engineering side, which we all do at first, or actually more on the operation side, like driving the boat and making tactical decisions, I constantly rely on that experience because I think it’s really similar to a lot of the things we do here at NASA. So that operational context really helps because you have to understand all of that engineering equipment, but you also have to work as a team to keep, you know, everything working correctly and make really critical decisions in a time-sensitive environment. And so, I find myself leaning on those lessons of how you bring the best out of everybody to do something that’s really hard.

Host: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: I rely on those lessons a lot. And the way I trained for that, to deploy on a submarine and be successful there, is really similar to the way I approach my training here at NASA. But I think that’s true for all of us.

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: Even people from very different backgrounds. Like, you know, you have people who, like, my classmate Jessica Watkins, who’s a Mars geologist and worked at [Jet Propulsion Laboratory] JPL on the Mars rovers. You know, she was doing that as a post doc. It’s very academic, but it’s also a team working together with limited resources to try to do something incredible, right? And so, she, in the same way, relies on that experience even though it’s very different than what I did in the Navy. And so, I think those academic experiences inform our professional experiences too.

Anne Roemer: Sure.

Kayla Barron: And those are also really important.

Host: Yeah, let’s zoom in on an aspect of that of working in a team because Anne, you mentioned this. You said, “There’s a skill of knowing when to lead and when to follow and doing both is really critical to being an astronaut.” I’m sure you had to deal with this on a submarine too, knowing when to lead and when to follow. What’s that like? Is there, you know, a mindset you have to be in of, “Yes, now, it’s time to lead” and “Yes, now, it’s time to follow”?

Kayla Barron: Sure, yeah, I mean, I think there are definitely times where you’re going to be in a designated leadership role. That has always been, you know, the NASA and the astronaut programs has its roots in military aviation. So, people are used to that. You know, you have space shuttle commanders or space station commanders.

Host: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: And they’re used to that formal designated authority, but sometimes the hairier parts are followership and also self-leadership. You know, like, I think thinking about followership as actually being a self-leader. Like, that makes it more actionable. Like, it’s not my job just to follow you. It’s my job to actively figure out how to support you as a designated leader and contribute to the team. You know, our office is pretty small, and we’re constantly working in different roles, so sometimes I might be in charge of something even though I have very little experience. And sometimes I might be, you know, I might have a peer in charge of me or vice versa. And being able to sort of transition very seamlessly between those roles and understand the different context and what that means is really important.

Host: That’s huge. Now let’s zoom in on this class once again because I want to bring us back to the fact of why we’re here, right? It’s March 6. We have until March 31.

Anne Roemer: That’s correct.

Host: That these applications are open. Where do we sit right now, in terms of ballpark applications?

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Host: Because I’ve heard it was 600 in the first few days or something.

Anne Roemer: It was.

Host: Yeah.

Anne Roemer: That’s why I don’t get daily updates [laughter]. I don’t need to be freaked out. No, when I checked yesterday, we were close to 2,000.

Host: Wow.

Anne Roemer: So, and that’s pretty normal, right? The beginning opening period and then the end of the opening period, we typically see big spikes, especially with the special attention on the last day. We have a lot of people that wait until the last day to apply. I don’t know why.

Host: OK [laughs], maybe just beefing up their resume and looking for that —

Anne Roemer: Maybe that constant month to fine-tune everything.

Host: [laughs] Yeah, so I guess there’s people thinking about what it takes for, you know, walking on the Moon, what it takes for working in teams. When you’re looking at a resume, you know, because all this is going to digital, right?

Anne Roemer: Yep.

Host: We’re going through USAJobs.

Anne Roemer: Yup.

Host: Is there something that pops up to you, maybe a weird skill or just some sort of diverse, something different that might make someone pop versus another 2,000 people that you’re looking at?

Anne Roemer: You know, I think, I’ve seen a lot of weird skills on resumes, [laughs] if I’m being honest. Some people employ creative writing even which is always very entertaining. You know, again, I think that’s where that hobbies and other interests’ section can be really informative. That’s a section where, again, it needs a little bit of context. We have a lot of people who tell us, “Oh, I’m scuba certified.” OK, well, that doesn’t tell me if they’re scuba certified and that’s all they’ve done, or have they gone on 200 dives?

Kayla Barron: Yeah.

Anne Roemer: Or, you know, a marathon runner. OK, well did you train and run one marathon, or have you run 50? So, there’s a lot of room in that section for people to tell us and, right, we see coding language. I remember the last selection cycle having to look up somebody wrote that they spoke Python and I’m like, “I don’t know what Python is.”

Host: [laughs] Like a snake?

Anne Roemer: It’s a coding language.

Host: Oh, it’s a coding language.

Anne Roemer: But I, right, I mean, so you– I’ve seen the gambit of things. But all of those things, the fact that I went and looked up what speaking Python meant, I was like, “Oh, OK [laughs]. That’s interesting. I learned something.” So, you know, I would not put anything down that could be relevant.

Host: Interesting. All right, let’s see if we have a case study online. Jennifer, do we have a question from some of our listeners?

Jennifer Hernandez: We sure do. Speaking of, you know, the gambit of skills and backgrounds, we have one from Diesel from Twitter, “Is NASA accepting pilot applications from pilots who have not graduated from TPS? Is weapon school graduation and test flight experience a suitable alternative?”

Anne Roemer: Sure. I’d encourage folks to read the application. Sorry, I’m going off memory here.

Host: Yeah.

Anne Roemer: We added test pilot school as a way for pilots and others to demonstrate that they have a master’s degree, right? Because, basically, that’s extra schooling in the math and science arena. For our pilots, they are not required to have gone to test pilot school, however. They would still have to have the master’s degree though, the advanced master’s degree in a technical field. So, right, I’d encourage folks that are interest or considering whether test pilot school works or doesn’t work to very specifically read that section of the announcement.

Host: Yeah, OK, so definitely get the details from the —

Anne Roemer: Yeah, because there are a few little nuisances there.

Host: Well, Kayla, what did you do to make yourself stand out in terms of– Was it maybe just your skills or did you have that —

Anne Roemer: I can answer that.

Host: Oh!

Kayla Barron: I have no idea.

Anne Roemer: I remember [laughs].

Host: There you go.

Anne Roemer: Right, I mean, if I recall Kayla’s application being one of the first three, I think women, in the submarine force. Is that correct to kind of?

Kayla Barron: So, I was in the first-year group that women were accepted in the submarine force.

Anne Roemer: First couple, yeah, yeah, and there weren’t that many.

Kayla Barron: Yeah, and on my submarine, there were, like, between three and five of us at a time.

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: But, yeah, I was still pretty new.

Host: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: When I was there.

Anne Roemer: It was very new, right, and that stood out. And then I think also the direction correlation that Kayla already spoke to with the environment of living and working on a submarine translates directly to basically the space station. If Kayla thinks of the space station as a flying sub, I love that [laughter]. I’m going to use that.

Kayla Barron: Submarine in space.

Anne Roemer: Submarine in space. I like it. So, I mean, right, those are two things right there that I even recall reading Kayla’s resume years ago.

Host: And what are you in for for the next few months maybe years, for looking at once they applicant–

Anne Roemer: Yup.

Host: Because they closed on the 31st. Your job’s not even close to done.

Anne Roemer: No, it’s actually just starting [laughs]. NASA anticipates announcing the next class of astronauts, and I always say the early summer of 2021. I don’t know. Houston summer tends to start in March so.

Host: [laughs] I’m already feeling it, yeah.

Anne Roemer: May, June-ish of 2021. But as we talked about earlier, this is a multistep process. And so, there are things that we’ll start doing from the day that announcement closes to try and, you know, continually whittle down the numbers and make sure that we’re looking at the highly qualified folks and inviting those folks for interviews, etc.

Host: OK.

Anne Roemer: So, yeah, it’s about another year plus in the making.

Host: Yeah, it’s going to be a long one.

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Host: Now, Kayla, we’re talking about the Artemis Generation, hiring the Artemis Generation. It’s also very apparent that you’re a part of this. You are the Artemis Generation. Tell me what some of the folks that are applying to be astronauts, what they can expect if they eventually do become astronauts, what we have to look forward to?

Kayla Barron: You know, it’s a really exciting time to be starting work at NASA because we’re continuing the amazing work we’re doing on the space station, and we’ve gotten really good at knowing how to operate up there and accomplish a lot. And so, we’re really excited to be a part of and continue to build on that legacy. But what makes it really exciting is we also have a lot other things going on. We’re about to bring the commercial crew program online, where we’ll launch NASA astronauts from the Cape in Florida. Again, on Boeing and SpaceX vehicles, which is super exciting. Those will be going to the space station. So, it’ll be another way to get a ride there. But also, we’re developing all of our systems for the Artemis program, our return to the Moon with the goal of putting humans back on the surface of the Moon by 2024. And so that involves a new rocket, a new space capsule, new spacesuits, thinking about power generation technologies, institute resource utilization on the Moon, and all of these things you can really nerd out on [laughs] with the people you find around Johnson Space Center. So, for us, it’s super exciting because it feels like we’re on the cusp of a whole new mission. The timing’s good because you get to be a part of that sort of legacy mission of the space station, but also be a part of building the future of NASA, which is returning to the Moon, hopefully to eventually go on to Mars.

Anne Roemer: Yep.

Kayla Barron: Which would be just so incredible. So, it’s a really fun time to be here.

Anne Roemer: Yeah. And I know, right, there’s a lot excitement. I hope at NASA and hopefully beyond across the country to return flying U.S. astronauts from U.S. soil on U.S. rockets, so it’s a great time to work at NASA.

Host: That’s huge. Are the Turtles part of that right now? Because we’re building up to that.

Kayla Barron: Yeah, absolutely. So, a lot of us have been involved in different ways in the commercial crew program.

Host: Cool.

Kayla Barron: Some of us have been doing verification testing with them. You know, just kind of finalizing the details of their system. Getting to test them out with fresh eyes and give them feedback on how things work. People are involved in operations, getting ready for those actual launches from Cape Canaveral in Florida. So really thinking through, you know, how do we get the astronauts ready for launch? How do we take care of their families, and what do we do when they land? How do we get them back to safety? So, there’s a lot of things that are spinning back up that we haven’t really been doing since the space shuttle stopped flying.

Host: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: So, it’s an exciting time.

Host: It’s a very exciting time. We have a lot of, I guess, new skills to look forward to, right? Let’s see if we have one more question from online. Jennifer, can we squeeze in one more?

Jennifer Hernandez: We sure do.

Host: OK.

Jennifer Hernandez: We have one from Drew from Twitter. “Will current astronauts be required to do updated training to go to the Moon?”

Host: OK, well, I guess, maybe, Kayla, you mentioned specialized training. Maybe that would be a part of the specialized training.

Kayla Barron: Yeah.

Host: I don’t know if the candidate training will be updated but.

Anne Roemer: Well, I think as Kayla mentioned, right, the candidate training kind of focuses on the basic things.

Host: Skills based, yeah.

Anne Roemer: That every astronaut needs to know. And then there’s always mission specific training beyond that so.

Kayla Barron: Yeah, I think a lot of the training, the new class we’ll do, will be pretty similar.

Anne Roemer: Pretty similar.

Kayla Barron: To what our class did.

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: But as we start to fly to the Moon, of course, we’ll be doing specific training to include advanced geology training so that we can be ready to do some awesome science when we’re up there. We’ll modify and expand our spacewalk training so that we can learn how to operate correctly in 1/6th Earth gravity.

Host: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: As opposed to the apparent microgravity environment we have on space station now. Lots of different tools, lots of different vehicles. You know, we have to fly a new capsule. We have to fly a lander. All of this new sort of mission specific equipment, absolutely, will be doing some additional training on that. But I think it’ll be more part of mission specific training.

Anne Roemer: Yeah.

Kayla Barron: That you do after you graduate from astronaut candidate training.

Host: So, if you put your name in the hat for one of those specialized training, I know what I would pick. What would you pick?

Kayla Barron: You know [laughs], I really love the spacewalk training we do. And I’ve been helping out a little bit with the Next Generation Space Suit that we’ll wear on the next moonwalk.

Host: Ah, cool.

Kayla Barron: The Exploration EMU or XEMU. So, I’m constantly nerding out and getting excited [laughs] about those moonwalks. Just yesterday, we were over in the rock yard where they have simulated soil environments, looking at the first generation of the geology tools we’ll be using, and it just gets your head in that mindset of standing on the Moon, looking back at Earth and collecting these samples that’ll inform science for decades, if not centuries to come. So, it’s definitely cool to be thinking about that stuff.

Host: That’s huge. Anne, if you had to pick one specialized training?

Anne Roemer: Oh, my feet are happy on the Earth [laughs], so I don’t know. I might actually choose Russian.

Host: You’d be the trainer. Yeah, I know I would sign up for the moonwalking. Anne and Kayla, this has been so fun. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.

Kayla Barron: Yeah.

Host: And describing the inside experience.

Anne Roemer: Anytime.

Host: This has been really, really fun, and I appreciate your time. I really do. Jennifer, thanks for being our face for the viewers and the listeners and taking in some of your questions.

Jennifer Hernandez: You got it. It was so nice to be with y ‘all today.

Host: And thanks to you the listeners for actually submitting questions. They were all really great, and I think it really stimulated a fantastic conversation. Again, the astronaut applications are open until March 31.

Anne Roemer: Thirty-first.

Host: So, beef up those resumes and go on USAJobs, and you can submit it there before then, and subscribe to Houston We Have a Podcast. Thanks for listening.

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Host: Hey, thanks for sticking around. For this recorded version of Houston, We Have a Podcast, if you haven’t checked out the live version, you can check us out on YouTube and on Facebook. Just search us at some of the NASA accounts. If you loved this podcast, subscribe to us at Check some of the other shows that we have here at NASA. You can follow us, Houston We Have a Podcast, on the NASA Johnson Space Center pages of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use the hashtag #AskNASA on your favorite platform. To submit an idea for the show, make sure to mention it’s for “Houston, We Have a Podcast.” This episode was aired live on March 6, 2020. Thanks to Alex Perryman, Pat Ryan, Norah Moran, Belinda Pulido, Kelly Humphries, Megan Sumner, Leah Cheshier, John Stoll, Dane Turner and Jennifer Hernandez. Thanks again to Anne Roemer and Kayla Barron for taking the time to come on the show. Give us a rating and feedback of whatever platform you’re listening to us on and tell us how we did and apply to be a NASA astronaut by March 31, 2020. We’ll be back next week.