LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
This is Lulu's log, star date June 11, 2017, where we consider matters of space, the stars, the universe. Just as class is getting out for the summer across the country, a new one has just been announced - NASA's latest class of astronauts.
The space agency has chosen 12 people from a pool of over 18,000 applicants for two years of training before giving them the title astronaut. Jasmin Moghbeli is one of these 12 candidates, and she joins me now from Johnson Space Center in Houston. Welcome to the program.
JASMIN MOGHBELI: Thanks, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, so tell me, what was the application process like? And it must have been a very epic job interview.
MOGHBELI: Yeah, it really was. It starts out a little underwhelming. You just submit your resume on USAJOBS.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's the government's job posting site, USAJOBS.
MOGHBELI: Yeah. And from there, they select highly qualified applicants. And the first round was three days of interviews. And then the final round, this time it's a week-long process.
MOGHBELI: And I left that thinking, wow, I want this job even more.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What was the toughest thing that they asked you?
MOGHBELI: You know, first they asked three words friends would use to describe me which I didn't have a problem with that, but then they asked one word I would use to describe myself. And it's just tough to pick one word. And out of nowhere, I said intense. And I think I was just feeling intense in that moment in the interview, but I don't know that that's really the single word I would use to describe myself.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, it seems to have gotten you one of these coveted slots. Tell us a little bit about your background. You are in the military. You've had three deployments. You have also been a pilot, have tested a lot of very important equipment. Did you always want to be an astronaut, though?
MOGHBELI: Yeah. I can tell you from at least sixth grade, I wanted to be an astronaut. I did a book report on Valentina Tereshkova, the first female in space, got to dress up like her in school for a day. And, you know, I'd always been interested in science, math, technology, that sort of thing always drew me in, and added to that, the sense of adventure and exploration. I thought, you know, space exploration was the coolest thing. So yeah, I've wanted to do this for a very long time.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Are they training you for the International Space Station, or are there other missions potentially that you could go on?
MOGHBELI: Sure. There are a lot of things on the horizon right now. I know learning about the systems on the space station will be part of our training over the next two years. But, you know, right now, both Boeing and SpaceX are working on commercial crew vehicles, the CST-100 Starliner and the Dragon vehicle, so those are also possibilities. And then NASA itself is working on the Orion. So a lot of new, exciting things coming up that we could potentially be doing in the near future.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what is your dream, though? If you could go anywhere, do anything in space, reality, you know, not even being a limit, what would you like it to be?
MOGHBELI: Honestly, right now, my dream is to go to space, so anything that NASA would give me if they assigned me to any mission I would be more than overjoyed.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have a question because I'm the mother of a young girl who is fascinated like you were by space exploration. And especially to young girls of color, what is your message to them?
MOGHBELI: Yeah. You know, I'm glad you brought that up. That is one of the most exciting things about this job for me, not just exploring space and that stuff but also getting that message out to the younger generation and getting them excited. If they can see someone, you know, similar to them that they can relate to more, then it makes it all that much more possible in their minds to imagine them doing this as well.
So to them I say, you know, do what you love and do it well. If you want to become an astronaut, you know, start looking into science, technology, engineering, math those kind of fields. But whatever you do, make sure you're doing something that you love.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's astronaut candidate Jasmin Moghbeli, who joined us from the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.