DIVIDE, Colo. — More than 12,000 people applied to be one of NASA's newest astronauts. Only 10 finalists got the call – including a fighter pilot from Colorado.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Nichole Ayers is part of NASA's first new astronaut class in four years. She grew up in Divide, attended Woodland Park High School, and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2011 with a degree in mathematics and a minor in Russian.
Ayers earned her master's degree in computational and applied mathematics from Rice University in Houston. She graduated from pilot training in 2014 and is now an instructor pilot in the F-22 Raptor.
At the time of her selection, Ayers was the assistant director of operations in the 90th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska.
NASA introduced its 10 new astronaut candidates – six men and four women –during a ceremony Monday in Houston. The group includes five combat and test pilots, a medical physicist, drilling specialist, maritime roboticist, NASA-turned-SpaceX flight surgeon and a bioengineer who was a champion cyclist.
Ayers and the other nine candidates will report to the Johnson Space Center in January. Before becoming eligible for spaceflight, they'll go through two years of training focused on maintaining the International Space Station, training for spacewalks, developing robotics skills, operating a training jet and learning Russian.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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