Kayla Barron, a Richland High School graduate, has been picked from over 18-thousand applicants to be one of twelve astronaut candidates for NASA's Class of 2017. Barron will join a very exclusive club: just 338 people have held the title of American astronaut.

Photo Courtesy of Robert Markowitz NASA/Johnson Space Center
Photo Courtesy of Robert Markowitz NASA/Johnson Space Center

Her classmates include seven men and four other women.  Barron is the nuclear engineer of the group. She's a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, has a master's in nuclear engineering from the University of Cambridge, England, completed three deterrent patrols as a nuclear submarine engineer aboard the USS Maine and currently serves as Flag Aide for the Superintendent of the Naval Academy.

Her two-year training regime begins in August Houston's Johnson Space Center.

Once training has been completed, she will be qualified for assignment to future space missions joining 44 other acitve-duty astronauts already on the NASA roster. Her mission(s) could entail a number of things including but not limited to: International Space Station research, a trip back to the moon, going into orbit launched by private companies on American soil, a mission to Mars or any other deep space exploration on NASA's new Orion spacecraft.

Her classmates include a physician, a surgeon, two geologists, an oceanography engineer, an electrical engineering professor, a SpaceX senior manager and four veteran test pilots. Their wide-ranging accomplishments include Antarctic expeditions, holding high-ranking military positions and collaborating on the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.

In NASA videos, Barron stated she was "excited and maybe a little bit nervous". Wouldn't you be if you're trying to balance science and pioneering?

She continued, in another NASA video, "I think it's amazing how many people from different backgrounds and different types of experience come to NASA because they are passionate about the mission."

Add weightlessness to the equation, and life as an astronaut is not unlike the cramped, long stretches away, hostile outside environment and must-work-together-for-efficiency attitude of a submarine.

Because fruit was unavailable when she was on a submarine, she said she's hoping for freeze-dried tomatoes to eat in space.

Read Kayla Barron's NASA bio here.

Read more here including background from Barron's father and mother regarding Tri-Cities schools preparing their daughter for the challenges ahead.

Godspeed, Kayla Barron!

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