In NASA’s history there have been 50 female astronauts. Of those, two were Marines. And of those two, only one, Maj Jasmin Moghbeli, may get to step on the moon.
Maj. Moghbeli was announced last Friday as part of the 2019 graduating class of NASA astronauts. She has not yet been given a flight assignment, but NASA has plans to return astronauts to the moon within the next ten years. She could be on that mission.
Moghbeli is accustomed to vertical flight – in helicopters, that is. She has accumulated more than 150 combat missions and 2,000 hours of flight time in over 25 different aircraft.
Per her NASA.gov bio page, Moghbeli was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps in 2005 after earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology from MIT.
After completing Initial Flight School (IFS) and The Basic School (TBS) in Quantico, Virginia, she reported to Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Florida for flight training. She earned her gold wings as a Naval Aviator in 2008 and reported to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303 (HMLA/T 303) for training in the AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter.
“The astronaut program was something I was interested in for a long time, since I was a kid,” she told Verticalmag.com. “It kind of had been pushed to the back of my mind while I was flying Cobras. But [as] my first tour was coming to a close, it came back into my mind, and that’s when I applied to test pilot school.”
Upon return from her final deployment in 2012, she reported for duty at the United States Naval Test Pilot School in NAS Patuxent River, Maryland to join Class 144. At the time of her selection by NASA in June 2017, Moghbeli was testing H-1 helicopters and serving as the quality assurance and avionics officer for VMX-1.
NASA’s “other” female Marine astronaut is LTC Nicole Aunapu Mann. She graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1999 before earning a degree in mechanical engineering at Stanford University in 2001. She then served two combat tours, flying 47 combat missions in F/A-18s as a fighter pilot over Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2015, after completing her astronaut training, Mann was assigned to the team currently training for the crew flight test of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, and the first crewed flight for that vehicle.
According to NASA, Mann and her crewmates are working closely with Boeing to develop their new spacecraft systems, which will provide roundtrip crew transportation services to the International Space Station and, along with SpaceX’s CrewDragon, return the ability to launch humans into space from United States soil.
It would be the first American manned launch since the space shuttle was retired in 2011. NASA has had to rely on Russia to get astronauts to the space station at a cost of about $84 million each.
In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX (Elon Musk’s venture) won contracts, worth $6.8 billion combined, to build spacecraft designed to restore human spaceflight from U.S. soil.
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft was tested just a few weeks ago at the end of December. It was successfully launched, but could not reach the planned orbit and was safely returned to Earth. The spacecraft was unmanned.
Space travel still captures the imagination of adventurous dreamers everywhere. But the term “astronaut” is only bestowed on a few. A very few. Proud. FEMALE. Marines.