2 UArizona graduates selected to be NASA astronaut recruits for future missions

Dec 7, 2021, 3:00 PM
Jessica Wittner, left, and Christina Birch, right (NASA Photos)...
Jessica Wittner, left, and Christina Birch, right (NASA Photos)
(NASA Photos)

PHOENIX — Two University of Arizona graduates were selected from more than 12,000 applicants to be part of the next class of NASA astronaut recruits for future missions.

Jessica Wittner and Christina Birch were among the 10 candidates picked for the 2021 class, NASA announced Monday in a press release.

Wittner, 38, has a bachelor of science in aerospace engineering from the Tucson university.

The California native was commissioned as a naval officer through an enlisted-to-officer program and has flown F/A-18 fighter jets in multiple states.

The 35-year-old Birch grew up in Gilbert and graduated from UArizona with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biophysics.

She was also a decorated track cyclist on the U.S. National Team.

Wittner and Birch will report to the Johnson Space Center in Houston in January for the two-year training program.

Astronaut recruits receive training in five major categories: 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.

Following the completion of training, Wittner and Birch could be involved in a variety of missions, including space station research and launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies.

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2 UArizona graduates selected to be NASA astronaut recruits for future missions