3 of NASA’s new astronaut candidates have Colorado connections

HOUSTON — Three of NASA’s 12 new astronaut candidates have strong ties to Colorado.

The space agency selected five women and seven men from a record pool of more than 18,300 applicants. It’s the largest astronaut class since 2000.

The 12 new astronaut candidates will go through two years of training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston before they will be qualified to go on future space missions and join NASA’s 44 active-duty astronauts.

NASA said they could be assigned to any of a variety of missions, including performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and departing for deep space missions on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

Vice President Mike Pence and Robert Lightfoot, the acting administrator for NASA, introduced the new astronauts Wednesday at the Johnson Space Center.

Three candidates have Colorado.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Dominick of Wheat Ridge is currently stationed in Japan. He completed Navy test pilot school, has a master’s degree in systems engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School and is part of Navy strike fighter squadron 115.

Jessica Watkins of Lafayette lives in Pasadena, Calif. She has been a post-doctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology and has a Ph.D. in geology from UCLA.

U.S. Army Maj. Francisco Rubio of Miami lives in Colorado Springs. He is a aurgeon for the 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (airborne), is a U.S. Military Academy graduate and has a doctorate of medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.