As an officer, roughly half of Barron’s waking time on board was monitoring systems, which is similar to what an astronaut would do in space, with the help of Mission Control. The other half was to serve as a division officer in charge of a group of technical experts, which again echoes the group work needed of astronauts as they focus on experiments and repairs on the International Space Station.
In a separate phone interview, Barron suggested that her submarine experience helped her stand out from other applicants in such a short career, though she doesn’t know this for sure. She said that she found it “really tough” to leave the US Naval Academy, where she was supposed to serve on a submarine as a department head if she hadn’t been selected as an astronaut.
“I have a little bit of a regret that I won’t be able to contribute in that way, but obviously I’m super excited to contribute to a different team,” Barron said.
She added that once her basic training is complete, she may be able to do some research as an astronaut to contribute to her previous field. She will continue to serve in the Navy while being an astronaut, which is common for military recruits.
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The 12 astronaut candidates will report to the Johnson Space Center in August to begin their basic training. This includes learning the systems of the International Space Station, picking up basic skills in flying and medicine, and commencing Russian language training, among other duties. They also will be put into periodic isolation and leadership training situations to enhance their teamwork skills.
After the basic training is complete, the candidates will become full-fledged astronauts eligible for flights. By that point, in 2019, NASA should be sending astronauts into space from US soil using two commercial spacecraft: the SpaceX Dragon and the Boeing CST-100. If funding for the Orion program continues, NASA will also be planning for its first human missions out of low Earth orbit.
NASA’s long-term aim is to head to Mars in the 2030s. As a part of that, recently the agency released tentative plans for a “deep space gateway,” or a space station near the moon that could serve as a base for missions farther away. These longer-term plans require ongoing funding and support from Congress, however, which is not guaranteed.
Members of the 2013 astronaut class — who were all in their 30s when they were selected — were also recruited to “travel to new destinations in the solar system, including an asteroid and Mars,” according to a press release at the time. But NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission was scrapped under the Trump administration’s 2018 budget.
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