One of These NASA Astronauts Could Be the First Woman on the Moon

Eleven astronauts joined NASA last week, receiving their silver pin at the first public graduation ceremony in the agency's history. Five of those astronauts are women, one of whom may go to become the first woman to step foot on Mars.

"They are the pioneers of the final frontier whose work will help fortify America's leadership in space for generations to come," Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) told audiences at the event in Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on January 10.

"I am excited for the opportunities ahead of them, including landing the first woman ever on the surface of the Moon, and having the first boots to step on Mars."

Candidates had to complete a tough application process, which whittled more than 18,000 applicants to the group eventually selected. The NASA graduates were joined on stage by two other astronauts who have joined the Canadian Space Agency.

These are the first astronauts to join NASA since its Artemis program was announced. One of the goals of Artemis is to sent the first humans to the moon since 1972, when the Apollo program came to an end. This should include the first woman to step foot on the lunar surface. After the moon, the program will look to send the first humans to Mars.

By joining NASA as active astronauts, the graduates will be eligible for missions with Artemis, as well as expeditions to the International Space Station.

2020 NASA recruits
US Senators Ted Cruz (C-R) and John Cornyn (C-L) pose with Nasa and Canadian Space Agency graduating astronauts during the ceremony at Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas, on January 10, 2020 Mark Felix / AFP/Getty

Here are the female astronauts who have joined NASA as astronauts:

Kayla Barron

Kayla Barron
Kayla Barron is one of the 48 astronauts working with NASA. Photo taken in 2017. NASA

Barron is a U.S. Navy lieutenant who hails from Richland, Washington. She joins NASA from the U.S. Naval Academy, where she served as the superintendent's Flag Aide and obtained a bachelor's degree in systems engineering. Barron also has a master's in nuclear engineering from the University of Cambridge, U.K., where she studied as a Gates Cambridge Scholar.

Barron went on to work as a submarine warfare officer with the U.S. Navy, completing three strategic deterrent patrols on a ballistic missile submarine, the USS Maine. According to her NASA bio, she enjoys hiking, backpacking, running and reading.

Zena Cardman

Zena Cardman
Zena Cardman is one of five female recruits who graduated last week. Photo taken in 2017. NASA

Cardman was born in Urbana, Illinois, but considers Williamsburg, Virginia, her home. She earned a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's degree in marine sciences at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her research focused on microorganisms in subsurface environments, such as caves and deep sea sediments.

While studying, Cardman took part in expeditions to Antarctica, working with the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research group to monitor changes in the region's ecosystems.

Before she started training with NASA, Cardman was at the Pennsylvania State University as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, studying microbial metabolism and biogeochemical cycling within cave systems. According to her NASA bio, her hobbies include caving, rock climbing, powerlifting and poetry.

Follower her on Twitter @zenanaut

Jasmin Moghbeli

Jasmin Moghbeli
Jasmin Moghbeli completed more than 150 combat missions before joining NASA. Pictured here in 2017. NASA

Moghbeli is NASA's first Iranian-American astronaut. She was born in Bad Nauheim, Germany, but moved to Baldwin, New York, during childhood. She joined NASA from VMX-1, where she was serving as a quality assurance and avionics officer testing H-1 helicopters.

Moghbeli achieved a bachelor's in Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and later, a Master of Science in Engineering Science degree in Aerospace Engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School. Since then, she has completed more than 150 combat missions and racked up more than 2,000 hours of flight time in 25 plus aircrafts. According to her NASA bio, she and her husband like to go paddle boarding, dancing, flying kites, and skateboarding together.

Follow her on Twitter @AstroJaws

Loral O'Hara

Loral O'Hara
Loral O'Hara received her silver pin on Friday. Photo taken in 2017. NASA

O'Hara is Texas native, born in Houston. She has expertise in engineering and the operation of deep-ocean research submersibles and robots. Shortly before training with NASA, she worked as a Research Engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), a private nonprofit dedicated to marine science and engineering. Here, she also served as a mechanical engineer and data processor on 11 research cruises.

O'Hara achieved her bachelor's in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Kansas and her master's in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University, Indiana. Her NASA bio reveals she enjoys outdoor sports, traveling, and painting. She also volunteers as an emergency medical technician on a local search and rescue team.

Follow her on Twitter ‎@lunarloral

Jessica Watkins

Jessica Watkins
Jessica Watkins worked on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, before starting astronaut training. NASA

Watkins considers Lafayette, Colorado her hometown, but was born in Gaithersburg, Maryland. She specialized in Mars surface processes as a graduate research fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She has also worked at NASA's Ames Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

At Caltech, she was part of the team working on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.

Watkins earned her bachelor's in Geological and Environmental Sciences from Stanford University and her doctorate in Geology from UCLA. Her hobbies, according to her NASA bio, include movies, writing and sports.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the percentage of female NASA astronaut graduates over the years.

NASA Female Astronauts Statista
Percentage of female astronauts that have graduated from NASA. Statista

This article was updated to include an infographic.