New NASA astronauts will never fly on shuttle
First recruits in 5 years will train for space station, other crafts
By Tariq Malik
updated 1:08 p.m. PT, Mon., June 29, 2009NASA on Monday unveiled the nine Americans making up its newest class of astronaut candidates, a group that will never fly on the space shuttle.
The six-man, three-woman astronaut class of 2009 is NASA's first batch of new spaceflying recruits in five years. The candidates are expected to report to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, in August to begin two years of training.
"This is a very talented and diverse group we've selected," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's space operations chief, in a statement. "They will join our current astronauts and play very important roles for NASA in the future."
NASA's three aging space shuttles are due to retire in 2010 after completing construction of the International Space Station. The new astronaut candidates, therefore, will likely only train to fly aboard the space station, Russian Soyuz vehicles, and NASA's shuttle replacement - the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and its Ares rockets tapped to ferry spaceflyers to orbit and back to the moon by 2020. The 11 astronauts of NASA's 2004 class are all expected to have flown once on a shuttle by the fleet's retirement next year, NASA officials have said.
"In addition to flying in space, astronauts participate in every aspect of human spaceflight, sharing their expertise with engineers and managers across the country," Gerstenmaier said.
The 2009 astronaut class is a relatively young group, with ages ranging from 30 to 43. NASA selected the nine from a field of 3,500 applicants to make up the new class, its 20th group since the original seven Mercury astronauts were unveiled in 1959.
The group is a mix of military and civilians that includes: a technical intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), two NASA flight surgeons, a space station flight controller, a sprint-running molecular biologist, as well as two Navy test pilots, a U.S. Air Force test pilot and the special assistant to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.
"I think this is a thrilling time to be part of the space program, and I feel very fortunate to be starting as an astronaut candidate at this particular time," said Kathleen Rubins, 30, the molecular biologist, in a NASA interview.
Here's a brief look at NASA's new astronaut class:
Currently, there are about 85 active astronauts in NASA's spaceflying ranks. The nine members of the 2009 class will join the astronaut corps after their two-year training regime.
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NASA spokesperson Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters told SPACE.com that the nine NASA recruits will be joined by new astronauts from Japan, Canada and Europe, who will also train with them. In May, the Japanese and Canadian space agencies each added two new astronauts to their small cadre of spaceflyers, while the European Space Agency unveiled six new astronauts representing Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.
The new astronauts are all expected to report for training duty in late August, Cloutier-Lemasters said.
"We look forward to working with them as we transcend from the shuttle to our future exploration of space, and continue the important engineering and scientific discoveries aboard the International Space Station," Gerstenmaier said.© 2009 Space.com.
Drink up! Guinness offers seat on a spaceliner
Beer company to send contest winner to space aboard Virgin Galactic craftThe company behind the dark Irish beer Guinness will give loyal drinkers a taste of space along with their stout, but only if they win new contest.
Guinness has reserved a seat aboard a suborbital Virgin Galactic spaceliner as one of three experience prizes in an online contest honoring the 250th birthday of the beer's brewery this year.
Founded by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic is a commercial space tourism company that plans to launch passengers on $200,000 trips to suborbital space using a fleet of SpaceShipTwo spacecraft. The spaceliners are designed to be launched from the air by a massive WhiteKnightTwo mothership and send two pilots and six passengers on a weightless joyride.
Virgin Galactic currently plans to launch and land space tourist flights from a terminal at Spaceport America in New Mexico — which began construction earlier this month — as well as from a spaceport in Kiruna, Sweden. The first WhiteKnightTwo carrier ship "Eve" has been flying a series of test flights this year.
Guinness officials said their space trip contest runs through Sept. 24 and promised a thrilling ride for the winner.
The launch will catapult passengers beyond Earth's atmosphere at nearly 2,500 mph — three times the speed of sound — to a point about 68 miles above the planet, Guinness officials said. Once in space, passengers will have a view of the blackness of space and unbroken vistas of the Earth for 1,000 miles in every direction before re-entering the atmosphere and gliding back to its home port, they added.
he beer company announced the new contest on Wednesday to commemorate founder Arthur Guinness's signing of the 9,000-year lease on the St. James's Gate brewery in Dublin, Ireland. Some 250 events are planned in participating countries around the world. They are open to adults of legal drinking age in their respective countries.
"Since 1759, Arthur Guinness and the Guinness brand have been behind some remarkable and hugely momentous achievements," Guinness officials said in a statement. "To continue this legacy and as part of the 250 celebrations, Guinness is giving something back to Guinness supporters around the world by offering the chance to win one of these three remarkable Guinness experiences."
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The two other prizes include an undersea trip to a Guinness bar 229 feet below the ocean's surface near the Lofoten Islands in Norway, as well as a private live studio performance by the band The Black Eye Peas.
Virgin Galactic's carrier ships and spacecraft are being built by the California-based company Scaled Composites. The new vehicles build on the firm's SpaceShipOne and WhiteKnight vehicles that won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004.
For more information on the Guinness online contest visit: www.guinness.com.© 2009 Space.com.