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NASA's Newest Explorers Become Astronauts
After 18 months of intense training, NASA's latest astronaut candidates now are officially astronauts. The class of 11, including three educator astronauts selected from teachers across the nation, received NASA Astronaut pins in a graduation ceremony Feb. 10.

Astronaut Class of 2004 with managers (NASA photo JSC2006-E-03626)
Image above: Joined by their managers, the 11 new NASA astronauts and three Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronauts pose for a group portrait following graduation exercises at Space Center Houston. From left are Robert Satcher, Thomas Marshburn, James Dutton, Naoko Yamazaki of JAXA, Randolph Bresnik, Joseph Acaba, Shannon Walker, with Flight Crew Operations Director Ken Bowersox, Johnson Space Center (JSC) Director Michael Coats, Astronaut Office Chief Kent Rominger and JSC Deputy Director Robert Cabana; continuing with graduates Richard Arnold, Christopher Cassidy, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Satoshi Furukawa of JAXA, Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA, Shane Kimbrough and Jose Hernandez. Credit: NASA. + Click for hi-resolution image (1.4 Mb)

This is NASA's first astronaut class focused from the start on realizing the Vision for Space Exploration, America's long-term exploration strategy that includes extending a human presence across the solar system.

“It’s been a fun and intense year of academics and been exciting to get to become familiar with the different systems and put things to practice in the simulators, and now we get to do that with the rest of the astronaut office,” said Chris Cassidy, astronaut candidate graduate. “There’s been a whole bunch of people that have worked hard to put us through the challenging and demanding year of ASCAN training, and we all wish we could thank each and every person.”

Astronaut candidates with SCUBA gear (JSC2006-E-02468) Image above: Several weeks prior to graduation, NASA's 2004 class of astronaut candidates participate in a training session in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory near Johnson Space Center, Houston. From front to back are Robert Satcher, Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA, James Dutton, Jose Hernandez, Satoshi Furukawa of JAXA and Shane Kimbrough. Credit: NASA

The new astronauts were selected in May 2004. They reported to NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, that summer to begin training, which has included water and land survival courses, T-38 flight instructions and space shuttle and International Space Station systems training. The class also completed numerous qualifying exams and flight evaluations. They join the rest of the corps in supporting space flight in technical roles and pursuing more specialized training for future assignments.

“What I’m looking forward to most is the future,” said Jose Hernandez, astronaut candidate graduate. “I think it’s a bright and exciting future for the space program.”

The new astronauts’ immediate duties include support roles in the space shuttle and space station programs, positions in robotics and spaceflight medicine. The new astronauts and their work assignments are:
  • Mission Specialist-Educator Joe Acaba: Space station branch and education
  • Mission Specialist-Educator Richard Arnold: Space station branch and education
  • Pilot Randy Bresnik: Space station branch
  • Mission Specialist Christopher Cassidy: Space station operations branch and capcom branch
  • Pilot James Dutton: Exploration branch
  • Mission Specialist Jose Hernandez: Shuttle branch
  • Mission Specialist Shane Kimbrough: Safety branch
  • Mission Specialist Thomas Marshburn: Space station and exploration branch
  • Mission Specialist-Educator Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger: Space station branch and education
  • Mission Specialist Robert Satcher: Robotics branch and space station branch
  • Mission Specialist Shannon Walker: Space station operations branch and capcom branch
Three Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronauts trained alongside the NASA candidates. They too will join the rest of the corps with technical work.
  • Mission Specialist Naoko Yamazaki: Robotics branch
  • Mission Specialist Akihiko Hoshide: CapCom branch and space station branch
  • Mission Specialist Satoshi Furukawa: Robotics branch and space station branch