How Do You Become an Astronaut? Ask NASA’s Latest Recruits

It’s been a long time since “astronaut” has been a common career choice for young children, mostly due to the dwindling demand for human space voyagers. However, when NASA announced its eight new recruits a week ago, the government space agency rekindled a classic dream for men — and notably women — across the country.

What’s really fascinating about this particular group of candidates is their current career paths. While several of these astronauts are already serving the country in one way or another, all hold advanced degrees in a variety of subjects, though most have always aspired to travel in space. NASA was highly selective: Less than 1% of the 6,100 applicants were selected as recruits. Though it’s not the most high-paying job — space explorers make between $64,000 and $141,000 a year — you can’t buy experiences like trips to Mars or asteroids.

Check out this new class of astronauts ready for space exploration in the 21st century.

1. Josh A. Cassada

This 39-year-old Michigan native earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Rochester after completing his undergraduate degree at Albion College. He currently serves as the co-founder and chief technology officer for Quantum Opus. Despite his formal training as a psychiatrist, Cassada’s company (which he started with his former college physics professor) supplies advanced physics researchers with equipment to measure single-photon emissions. Additionally, Cassada is a U.S. Navy pilot.

2. Victor J. Glover

Glover hails from California and Texas, and is an accomplished lieutenant commander for the U.S. Navy. He is an F/A-18 pilot and a navy legislative fellow for Congress. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and has degrees from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and Air University and Naval Postgraduate School. In addition to being a successful engineer, Glover dreams of mastering the Djembe drum and wrestled through college on the same team as UFC star Chuck Liddel.

3. Jessica U. Meir

Meir is 35 years old and an assistant professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School. Like so many of her peers, she aspired to space travel at an early age, though her degrees and work experience suggest otherwise. Originally from Caribou, Maine, Meir studied at Brown University and received her Ph.D. from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. She also holds a degree from the International Space University, though before settling into her teaching job she worked as the “mother goose” to bar-headed geese.

4. Christina M. Hammock

Hammock, a 34-year-old from Jacksonville, North Carolina has always had the dream of becoming involved with NASA. After earning a scholarship in 2000 to attend North Carolina State University in Raleigh, she completed both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering. In addition to her current work for NOAA as the atmospheric station chief in American Samoa, she has worked as a research associate at Raytheon Polar Services, an engineer at John’s Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, and as an engineer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

5. Tyler “Nick” N. Hague

This lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force thinks of home as Hoxie, Kansas. He serves as the deputy chief of joint improvised explosive devices for the Department of Defense. He has earned degrees from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the U.S. Air Force Test-Pilot School. He is 37 years old.

6. Andrew R. Morgan

Morgan has worked as an emergency physician and flight surgeon for the Army in the special operations community, and is currently completing a sports medicine fellowship. Originally from New Castle, Pennsylvania, Morgan studied at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and earned his doctorate in medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. He is 37 years old.

7. Anne C. McClain

McClain, a 34-year-old major in the U.S. Army, has dreamed of becoming an astronaut since her childhood days in Spokane, Washington. She graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where she played softball and studied aerospace engineering. She received her advanced degrees in the United Kingdom at the University of Bath and the University of Bristol, respectively. Currently, she is an employee of the Johnson Space Center in the Astronaut Office.

8. Nicole A. Mann

This 35-year-old California native is tough. She’s a major in the U.S. Marine Corps, and an F/A 18 pilot. She works at present as a leader of the Integrated Product Team at a U.S Naval Air Station. She received her undergraduate degree from the U.S. Naval Academy where she was an accomplished soccer player. In 1998, she was player of the year and in 1999 was named All-American. She received her advanced degrees from U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland.

Originally published on Policy Mic

NASA Google Quantum Computer: The World’s Most Expensive Computer Thinks Like a Human

Who would have thought that quantum physics would find its way into a computer?

Just last Friday, NASA teamed up with Google to invest in the world’s first quantum computer. This computer is no MacBook Pro: At the steep price of $15 million, this doozy of a processor will use quantum computing for unheard-of calculation speeds 3600 times faster than those of conventional computers.

The Canadian D-Wave-Two is the first commercially available computational system that supposedly utilizes quantum tunneling to solve complex mathematical equations. This process represents a complete overhaul of the way computer scientists have thought about processing.

The first computer developed in 1948 filled rooms and took hours to process what can now be done in the blink of an eye. In addition to accelerating computational number crunching, engineers have compacted these machines to fit in the palm of your hand. Based on this knowledge, it hardly seems probable that we could need even smaller and faster computers.

Most computers function using the simple — albeit complex to the untrained eyes — binary systems in which everything can be coded down to zeroes and ones. These codes both store information and execute operations as needed.

The D-Wave System uses the peculiar nature of incredibly tiny bits of matter. While most things we know are bound to existing in one state at a time, quantum particles have a funny way of being both simultaneously. Rather than thinking of information as data stored in zeroesor ones, quantum computing analyzes quibits — short for quantum bits — as both at once.The effect of this type of computer processing system allows the computer to predict the outcome of multiple scenarios at once.

Remember those simultaneous equations and quadratics where x had a couple possible outcomes from high school? Or even just think of a time when you tried to run a scenario through your head and tried to figure out all the possible outcomes, depending on a number of different situations. Quantum computing solves these types of problems, except with extremely complex scenarios. This state-of-the-art computer can solve lengthy, multi-variable equations in a fraction of a second, whereas typical software currently used in spaceships takes up to half an hour.

Though smaller versions of this type of computer have existed and shared quibits of data between them, NASA and Google’s new supercomputer would be the first of its kind. Despite the fact that the computer will be shared between the two, given the computing power there’s no doubt the two companies will revolutionize technology in their respective fields. Engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California estimate that it will be available to be installed in NASA as early as autumn of this year.

Though preliminarily applications of this computer would be strictly on the ground for planning and scheduling for NASA, the implications for future artificial intelligence are out of this world. By running a number of different scenarios simultaneously, spacecrafts could be programmed to make complicated decisions similar to those made by astronauts. At present, the ability to make decisions based on a number of variables separates computers from humans. Imagine if instead of putting actual humans into space, we had a computer that could analyze all sorts of information — from temperatures to fuel levels to anything else astronauts manage while in space — in order to make decisions for a successful mission. While this computer may put astronauts out of a job, it stretches the horizons of our space explorations quite literally.

The D-Wave-Two isn’t perfect: It’s still about the size of a garden shed and requires cooling systems to keep the parts from overheating. And of course, the steep cost of $15 million will keep most prospective buyers at bay. But given the fact that this is what we said about the first modern computers, this machine is bound to evolve quickly and advance technology’s capabilities beyond what we can imagine.

Original article available from Policy Mic