Chesapeake native, NASA Langley pilot among 10 new astronaut candidates


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A Chesapeake native and a research pilot from NASA Langley are among 10 new astronaut candidates chosen by NASA.

NASA announced the 2021 Astronaut Candidate Class on Monday, choosing 10 new astronaut candidates from more than 12,000 applicants across the United States, and U.S. territories Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands.

The 10 candidates are part of the new class of astronauts announced in four years.

“Alone, each candidate has ‘the right stuff,’ but together they represent the creed of our country: E pluribus unum – out of many, one,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson during the ceremony Monday at Ellington Field near NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Among the 10 is Chesapeake native Andre Douglas, who graduated from Western Branch High School. Douglas earned his bachelors’ degree in mechanical engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a master’s degree in naval architecture and marine engineering from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, and a doctorate in systems engineering from the George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Douglas served in the U.S. Coast Guard as a naval architect, salvage engineer, damage control assistant, and officer of the deck.

At the time of his selection, Douglas had been serving as a senior professional staff member at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL) working on maritime robotics, planetary defense, and space exploration missions.

Another candidate, Florida native Luke Delaney, was working as a research pilot at NASA Langley supporting airborne science missions at the time of his selection.

Delaney holds degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering and was a distinguished naval aviator participating in exercises throughout the Asia Pacific region and conducting combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The new class of astronaut candidates includes two naval aviators.

“I’m just so honored to be part of such an incredible, diverse group of people,” said Cmdr. Jack Hathaway, who is stationed at Naval Air Station Oceana. “It’s a little bittersweet for me because I love my VFA-81, they actually just left on a deployment with the Truman last week and I’m not going to be able to do on that deployment with them.”

Lt. Cmdr. Jessica Wittner also spent time at Naval Air Station Oceana.

“Who thought that I could’ve been an engine mechanic, just turning wrenches in the trenches and then make it here today?” she said. “I’ve wanted to do this since I was a little girl, so this has been my dream for a very, very long time.”

All the candidates will report for duty at the Johnson Space Center in January to begin two years of training in different categories including operating and maintaining the International Space Station’s complex systems, training for spacewalks, developing complex robotics skills, safely operating a T-38 training jet, and Russian language skills.

“I think the two-year training course is going to be the most incredible experience of my life,” said Hathaway.

Wittner said, “We’re going to be learning all kinds of different things, language, survival skills, we’re going to learn about the International Space Stations’ systems.”

Another member of the class, U.S. Air Force Major Nichole Ayers, was previously stationed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton.

For more information on the candidates, click here.

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