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Nicole Aunapu Mann, a jet fighter pilot at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, is headed to NASA astronaut training, where she hopes to be part of the first human mission to an asteroid and then to Mars.
Mann, a Marine Corps major, currently works at Pax River in the Strike Planning and Execution Systems program office. She graduated from Stanford University, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Pax River, and flies F/A-18s.
“Maj. Mann has been performing at the ‘astronaut’ level in PMA-281 since her arrival,” said program manager Mike Paul. “In my time in the military and as a civilian, she would be my first choice for this program.”
NASA selected eight astronaut trainees, from more than 6,100 applications, for 2013. The group also includes a Navy pilot currently serving as a congressional legislative fellow, an Army special operations flight surgeon, an associate professor of anesthesia at Harvard, a NOAA station chief, and Anne C. McClain, a West Point grad and helicopter pilot who recently graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.
Those selected range in age from 34 to 39. Half are women. All demonstrated “impressive strengths academically, operationally and physically,” and will “help the agency push the boundaries of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system,” according to a statement from the space program.
Trainees will visit space stations worldwide, “developing missions to go farther into space than ever before,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, touting plans to launch from U.S. soil in spacecraft built by “American companies.”
Mann was in classes this week and was unavailable for comment by deadline, according to Navy public affairs. She is from Penngrove, Calif.