HOUSTON — NASA's newest astronauts are ready to come out of their shells and walk on the moon.
Nicknamed the "Turtles," the space agency's 22nd class of astronauts graduated from basic training and became eligible for spaceflight assignments on Friday. A ceremony held at the Johnson Space Center in Houston honored the 11 Americans, together with two Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronauts who trained with them.
The new class, which includes six women and seven men, expands NASA's active corps to 48 members. CSA has now doubled its ranks to four with the graduation of this, its fourth group of astronauts.
Selected in 2017 from record-setting pools of candidates, the new astronauts are the first to receive their astronaut pins under NASA's Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024. The class members may be some of the first astronauts to fly to the moon since the Apollo program 50 years ago, or they may be assigned to launch to the International Space Station aboard U.S. commercial crew spacecraft.
To arrive at this point, the Turtles (nicknamed such by the prior astronaut class, the "8 Balls," after a joke about turtles on fenceposts), were put through more than two years of basic training. They took part in neutral buoyancy underwater dives to learn how to spacewalk, were sent out on geology field trips, received training in operating robotics and were taught wilderness survival skills. They also became proficient in space station systems, took Russian language classes, experienced weightlessness on parabolic aircraft flights and flew NASA's T-38 supersonic jets.
50 photos to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing
50 photos to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing
This 19 November 1969 file photo released by NASA shows one of the astronauts of the Apollo 12 space mission conducting experiment on the moon's surface with a camera. An other astronaut is reflected in his helmet. An Apollo / Saturn V space vehicle launched the Apollo 12 astronauts Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr., commander, Richard F. Gordon, command module pilot, and Alan L. Bean, lunar module pilot from the Kennedy Space Center, on November 14, 1969, on the Apollo 12 United States' second manned lunar landing mission. AFP PHOTO NASA (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
376713 09: (FILE PHOTO) The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has named these three astronauts as the prime crew of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. Left to right, are Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. The 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon mission is celebrated July 20, 1999. (Photo by NASA/Newsmakers)
Views of Carol Armstrong, wife of American astronaut, Neil Armstrong of the Apollo 11 mission, sitting on floor with 2 sons, attentively watching T.V. at home as lunar module lands on the moon. (Photo by Vernon Merritt III/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)
TS Bremen Arrives-(North German Lloyd Liner) Pier 92 West 52nd St, North River Mothers and their children read the Daily News and all about the Moon Men and the landing of Apollo 11. Joan Lambele of Manchester, New Hampshire-Mrs. Renate Bugenhagen of Georgia and Mrs. Halla Nicolson of East Setauket, L. I. all have been in Germany for from 3 months to 39 months and are now returning to their homes with their children. (Photo By: Fred Morgan/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
24th July 1969: American statesman Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, with American astronauts, (from left), Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, after the astronauts' successful moon-landing expedition. They are separated by a quarantine window. (Photo by Keystone/CNP/Getty Images)
Lunar Module Pilot Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin Jr prepares to deploy part of the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASAP) during his extravehicular activity (EVA) on NASA's Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, 20th July 1969. In his left hand is the Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP) and in his right, the Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector (LR3). The photograph was taken by Commander Neil Armstrong with a 70mm lunar surface camera. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
376713 12: (FILE PHOTO) Astronaut Neil Armstrong smiles inside the Lunar Module July 20, 1969. The 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing mission is celebrated July 20, 1999. (Photo by NASA/Newsmakers)
A group of children sit on a GMC truck in Central Park to watch the televised broadcast of the Apollo 11 moon landiing, New York, New York. July 20, 1969. (Photo by Tim Boxer/Getty Images)
The United States flag is planted on the surface of the Moon by the astronauts of NASA's Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, as seen from inside the Lunar Module the 'Eagle', 20th July 1969. In the background is the black and white lunar surface television camera which televised astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin Jr during their EVA (extravehicular activity). (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
From left: Astronauts Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin, Jr. Neil Alden Armstrong, and Michael Collins stand to the right of New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay's in front of City Hall in New York City during celebrations for the Apollo 11 moon landing, August 1969. An unidentified man speaks at the podium. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 24: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin, the crew of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing mission, who are are subjected to a period of quarantine upon their return to earth, hold a conversation with President Richard Nixon in the United States on July 24, 1969. (Photo by NASA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
A television screen grab from a CBS News Special Report: shows an Apollo 11 astronaut on the moon, July 1969. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
A television screen grab shows the members of mission control waving flags and celebrating the splashdown and return of the crew of the Apollo 11, Texas, July 1969. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
President Richard M. Nixon talking to Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Alden Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. in quarantine after walking on the moon due to fears of unknown pathogens they might have been exposed to. Juy 24, 1969. Image taken off screen. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
(AUSTRALIA OUT) Crowds gather around a television set at Mascot Airport in Sydney to watch the broadcast of American astronaut Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to land on the moon, 21 July 1969. SMH Picture by TREVOR DALLEN astronaut, Neil Armstrong, NASA, Apollo landing, mission,man on the moon, American, space, spectators, television, tv, set, viewers, crowd, crowds, viewing, watching, Sydney Airport, travellers, lounge, pilots, black and white, black & white, 1960s, sixties, (Photo by Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
(AUSTRALIA OUT) Lunchtime crowds gather at the Hyde Park Hotel in Sydney to watch a televised broadcast of American astronaut Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, 21 July 1969. SMH Picture by R L STEWART (Photo by Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
Lunar Module Pilot Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin standing next to the Solar Wind Composition experiment, part of the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASAP), at Tranquility Base on the surface of the Moon, during NASA's Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, July 1969. The Lunar Module or 'Eagle' is behind him. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
American broadcast journalist and TV news anchor Walter Cronkite keeps his eyes on his monitor as NASA's Apollo 11 mission touches down on the moon, July 20, 1969. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
View of the crowd gathered in Central Park to watch the televised broadcast of the Apollo 11 moon landiing, New York, New York, July 20, 1969. (Photo by Tim Boxer/Getty Images)
376713 25: (File Photo) The December 1969 Cover Of National Geographic Depicts The Famous Photograph Of Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Taken By Neil Armstrong On The Surface Of The Moon. The 30Th Anniversary Of The Apollo 11 Moon Landing Mission Is Celebrated July 20, 1999. (Photo By Getty Images)
A northeasterly low-oblique view of a crater on the far side of the Moon, taken from the spacecraft during NASA's Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, July 1969. The centre of the image is located at around 167 degrees east longitude and 6 degrees north latitude, just east of the International Astronomical Union crater Number 220. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
A television screen grab from a CBS News Special Report: shows the Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon, July 1969. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
The Lunar Module or 'Eagle' on the Moon with the Earth visible behind it, during NASA's Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, July 1969. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
376713 06: (FILE PHOTO) New York City welcomes the Apollo 11 crew in a showering of ticker tape down Broadway and Park Avenue August 13, 1969 in a parade termed as the largest in the city's history. Pictured in the lead car, from the right, are astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. The three astronauts teamed for the first manned lunar landing on July 20, 1969. The 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon mission is celebrated July 20, 1999. (Photo by NASA/Newsmakers)
376713 21: (FILE PHOTO) The Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle lifts off July 16, 1969 from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex in Florida. The space craft was injected into lunar orbit on July 19, 1969 with Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. on board. The 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing mission is celebrated July 20, 1999. (Photo by NASA/Newsmakers)
376713 13: (FILE PHOTO) U.S. Navy pararescueman Lt. Clancey Hatleberg disinfects Apollo 11 Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. after getting into the life raft during recovery operations today at the completion of their successful lunar landing mission. The space pilots donned biological isolation garments in their spacecraft. The 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing mission is celebrated July 20, 1999. (Photo by NASA/Newsmakers)
While their father, Apollo II astronaut Buzz Aldrin is busy preparing for the July 16th blastoff for the historical landing on the moon, son Michael and daughter Janice, 11, are concerned with more earthly matters, such as repairing Jan's bicycle tire which she punctured with a tack.
376713 20: (FILE PHOTO) The deployment of scientific experiments by Astronaut Edwin Aldrin Jr. is photographed by Astronaut Neil Armstrong. Man's first landing on the Moon occurred July 20, 1969 as Lunar Module "Eagle" touched down gently on the Sea of Tranquility on the east side of the Moon. The 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon mission is celebrated July 20, 1999. (Photo by NASA/Newsmakers)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 15: A technician helps Collins from a spacecraft after he and the other two Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Edwin �Buzz� Aldrin, had taken part in the launch countdown demonstration test at Launch Complex 39 at the Kennedy Space Centre, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission, was launched on 16th July 1969 and Armstrong and Aldrin became the first and second men to walk on the Moon on 20th July 1969. Collins, the Command Module pilot, remained in lunar orbit while Armstrong and Aldrin were on the surface. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. Poses For A Photograph Beside The Deployed Flag Of The United States. The Lunar Module Is On The Left. Man's First Landing On The Moon Occurred Today At 4:17 P.M. July 20, 1969 As Lunar Module "Eagle" Touched Down Gently On The Sea Of Tranquility On The East Side Of The Moon. The Lm (Lunar Module) Landed On The Moon On July 20, 1969 And Returned To The Command Module On July 21. The Command Module Left Lunar Orbit On July 22 And Returned To Earth On July 24, 1969. Apollo 11 Splashed Down In The Pacific Ocean On 24 July 1969 At 12:50:35 P.M. Edt After A Mission Elapsed Time Of 195 Hrs, 18 Mins, 35 Secs. (Photo By Nasa/Getty Images)
Astronauts Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong near Wall Street during a parade in New York City following their moon landing. August 13, 1969. (Photo by Barney Stein/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
Daily News front page August 18, 1969, Headline: NEIL, BUZZ, MIKE, TOWN IS YOURS - Landing Here Today... Encircling moon globe, the Apollo 11 crew flash their best moonbeaming smiles. They're (l to r.) Buzz Aldrin, Mike Collins and Neil Armstrong. Today they bathe New York in moonglow as city hails them with ticker-tape parade. (Photo By: /NY Daily News via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 15: Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Edwin �Buzz� Aldrin, dressed in spacesuits, are standing in front of a training Lunar Module. Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission, was launched on 16th July 1969 and Armstrong and Aldrin became the first and second men to walk on the Moon on 20th July 1969. Collins, the Command Module pilot, remained in lunar orbit while Armstrong and Aldrin were on the surface. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
Apollio 11 Parade, The moon men get a warm welcome home as New Yorkers pile into the street to celebrate the Apollo 11 homecoming at the ticker-tape parade. (Photo By: Dan Farrell/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Apollo 11 Splashdown, Watching the finish of man's greatest voyage of exploration. (Photo By: John Pedin/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Muscovites read the July 21st edition of the Soviet newspaper Izvestia which played the Apollo 11 moon landing story on the front page, but beneath a story of the 20th year of Communist rule in Poland and a report on Russia's own Luna 15 spacecraft. The Apollo picture (arrow) shows the astronauts on the moon.
American engineer, astronaut, and Command Pilot Buzz Aldrin on the spaceflight Apollo 11, July 1969; Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission, was launched on 16th July 1969 and Neil Armstrong and Aldrin became the first and second men to walk on the Moon on 20th July 1969. The third member of the crew, Command Module pilot Michael Collins, remained in lunar orbit while Armstrong and Aldrin were on the surface. Aldrin was the Lunar Module pilot on the mission. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
The moon landing headlines on various newspapers including the International Herald Tribune, l'Humanite and Le Figaro.
In a park, viewers gather around to watch the television broadcast of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Hong Kong, July 1969. (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - JULY 21: Neil Armstrong's first step on the Moon on July 21, 1969. (Photo by NASA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
HYANNIS, MA - JULY 20: Customers line up outside Willoughby's in Hyannis, MA to get their Sunday newspapers on July 20, 1969 - the day of the Apollo 11 moon landing. (Photo by Joe Dennehy/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
20th July 1969: American astronaut Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin Jnr steps onto the lunar surface from the Apollo 11 lunar module to become the second man to walk on the moon. (Photo by Neil Armstrong/MPI/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 7/17/1969- Space Center, Houston, TX- Overall view of activity in Mission Operations Control Room in the Mission Control Center, Building 30, on the second day of the Apollo II lunar landing mission. A picture of astronaut Neil A. Armstrong was being transmitted from the color TV camera aboard the Apollo II spacecraft as it traveled toward the moon. The spacecraft was about 130,000 mautical miles from earth when this photo was taken.
(Original Caption) Atop a column of flame, the Apollo 11 space vehicle thrusts towards a rendezvous with the moon. Liftoff occurred at 9:32 A.M. EDT at pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center, signaling the start of man's first lunar landing mission.
381858 01: 30Th Anniversary Of Apollo 11 Landing On The Moon (4 Of 20): Vice President Spiro Agnew And Former President Lyndon Johnson View The Liftoff Of Apollo 11 From The Stands Located At The Kennedy Space Center Vip Viewing Site. The Apollo 11 Saturn V Space Vehicle Lifted Off On July 16, 1969 And Was Injected Into Lunar Orbit On July 19 With Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins And Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., At 9:32 A.M. Edt July 16, 1969, From Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex In Florida. The Lm (Lunar Module) Landed On The Moon On July 20, 1969 And Returned To The Command Module On July 21. The Command Module Left Lunar Orbit On July 22 And Returned To Earth On July 24, 1969. Apollo 11 Splashed Down In The Pacific Ocean On 24 July 1969 At 12:50:35 P.M. Edt After A Mission Elapsed Time Of 195 Hrs, 18 Mins, 35 Secs. (Photo By Nasa/Getty Images)
View of eight frames of film shows American astronaut (and future politician) Neil Armstrong as he descends a ladder from the lunar landing module (the shadow of which is visible) to the surface of the Moon during NASA's Apollo 11 lunar mission, July 16, 1969. (Photo by NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)
Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin charged with the responsibility of setting Apollo-11's LEM down on target on the moon, goes over moon charts of proposed landing areas during a training session, as shown here.
UNITED STATES - APRIL 15: Aldrin (front) is using a scoop to collect surface samples while Armstrong is taking pictures during a practice session of their lunar activities at the Manned Spacecraft Centre (now Johnson Space Centre) Houston, Texas. Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission, was launched on 16th July 1969 and Armstrong and Aldrin became the first and second men to walk on the Moon on 20th July 1969. The third member of the Apollo 11 crew was Michael Collins, who remained in lunar orbit while Armstrong and Aldrin were on the surface. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) "Moon Man." Space Center, Houston: Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong seems the picture of confidence at the moment. Armstrong, in training for the projected Apollo 11 lunar landing, is taking a break at the Space Center in Houston during the first full dress rehearsal of activities he is to perform on the moon.
Manned Spaceflight Center, Tx.: Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins (from right), scheduled to make the nation's first landing on the moon, pose in front of a full-scale mockup of the lunar landing vehicle in which Armstrong and Aldrin will descend to the moon's surface. The mission, Apollo 11 may be attempted as early as July of this year.
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The NASA members of the Turtles include:
Kayla Barron, a 32-year-old U.S. Navy lieutenant who served as a submarine warfare officer and the flag aide to the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy.
Zena Cardman, 32, a marine biologist who studied microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments, on multiple expeditions to Antarctica and NASA analog missions in British Columbia, Idaho and Hawaii.
Raja Chari, a 42-year-old U.S. Air Force colonel who served as the commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California.
Matthew Dominick, 38, a U.S. Navy lieutenant commander who served on the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier as department head for a strike fighter squadron.
Bob Hines, 44, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who flew as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight test pilot and NASA research pilot at Johnson Space Center.
Warren "Woody" Hoburg, 34, a commercial pilot and search and rescue unit member who led a research group as an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Jonny Kim, a 36-year-old Navy SEAL, who completed more than 100 combat operations before becoming a physician resident in emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Jasmin Moghbeli, a 36-year-old U.S. Marine Corps major who tested H-1 helicopters and served as the quality assurance and avionics officer for Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 in Yuma, Arizona.
Loral O'Hara, 36, a research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, where she worked on deep-ocean research submersibles and robots.
Francisco "Frank" Rubio, a 44-year-old U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who was a Blackhawk helicopter pilot and served as a surgeon for the 3rd Battalion of the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado.
Jessica Watkins, 31, worked at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and California Institute of Technology, where she collaborated on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.
The CSA members of the Turtles are:
Joshua Kutryk, a 37-year-old Royal Canadian Air Force lieutenant colonel who worked as an experimental test pilot and fighter pilot, leading the unit responsible for the operational flight-testing of fighter aircraft in Canada.
Jennifer "Jenni" Sidey-Gibbons, 31, an engineer who conducted research on flame propagation in microgravity in collaboration with CSA and as an assistant professor in combustion at the University of Cambridge.
The Turtles originally included a 14th candidate, Robb Kulin, a private pilot who worked as the senior manager for flight reliability at SpaceX. Kulin resigned from NASA in 2018 "for personal reasons." Kulin is now director of engineering for Firefly Aerospace, a Texas-based launch services company for small payloads.
NASA has been training astronauts since 1959 and the selection of the original Mercury 7 pilots. Including the Turtles, the U.S. space agency has qualified 347 men and women for spaceflight and has trained 34 professional astronauts from Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency (ESA).