On January 10, the latest astronaut class selected in 2017, officially became the first class to graduate under the Artemis programme at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, after successfully completing two years of basic training.
Lara O’Hara is one among the 13 graduates from the NASA class who will join the active astronaut corps. She is now eligible for spaceflight, including assignments to the International Space Station, Artemis missions to the Moon and, ultimately, missions to Mars.
Loral O’Hara is from Sugar Land, Texas, and due to her close proximity to Houston, she has made frequent student field trips and family visits to the Johnson Space Center. Growing up, she had always had her eyes set on the stars and was determined to work in the outer space.
Her applications to join the astronaut class were rejected twice as she did not have basic qualifications. However, she was got lucky the third time, when all of her experience helped her get a seat among 12 other members. Her application was one among a record-setting pool of more than 18,300 applicants, the largest astronaut class since 2000. She filed her application in 2015, and only received the call a year and a half later about her selection as an astronaut candidate.
In the second grade, she grew tomatoes from seeds that flew on a space shuttle. In high school, she visited the space centre to watch space shuttle mission debriefs. The visit inspired her to take up aerospace engineering at the University of Kansas. Through college, she worked with the Space Grant Consortium. Later, she took part in NASA’s KC-135 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program, which allowed students to propose, design, create, fly, and test an experiment in a microgravity environment.
She has also attended the NASA Academy at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, a 10-week residential summer programme in which students contribute to challenging NASA research and development projects alongside NASA mentors. She also undertook an internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, that gave her the opportunity to work on real NASA projects with NASA mentors.
Loral has a Master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Purdue University. She has worked as a project engineer at Rocketplane Limited in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She has contributed to a major upgrade of the human-occupied submarine Alvin from 2009 through 2013, earning her Naval certification. In 2015, she began work as a design engineer at Stone Aerospace in Austin, Texas. Before joining the class of 2020, she was a research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic, where she worked on the engineering, testing, and operations of deep-ocean research submersibles and robots.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)
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