Colorado Air Force major chosen for NASA 2021 astronaut class

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Nichole Ayers, NASA astronaut candidate class (photo credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (KDVR) — A native Coloradan was named to NASA’s 2021 astronaut class, which includes 10 men and women out of 12,000 applicants.

U.S. Air Force Major Nichole Ayers, 32, graduated from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in Russian. She also has a master’s degree in computational and applied mathematics from Rice University.

Ayers’ knowledge of Russian meets one of the several requirements in the candidate training: operating and maintaining the International Space Station‘s complex systems, training for spacewalks, developing complex robotics skills, safely operating a T-38 training jet, and Russian language skills.

Ayers is an experienced combat aviator with more than 200 combat hours and more than 1,150 hours of total flight time in the T-38 and the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, according to NASA’s website.

NASA’s post says she is one of the few women currently flying the F-22, in 2019 Ayers led the first-ever all-woman formation of the aircraft in combat.

The pool of applicants ranged from all 50 states to U.S. territories Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands. 

“Today we welcome 10 new explorers, 10 members of the Artemis generation, NASA’s 2021 astronaut candidate class,” Nelson said. “Alone, each candidate has ‘the right stuff,’ but together they represent the creed of our country: E pluribus unum – out of many, one.”

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