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NASA selects 8 for new batch of astronauts

Maine resident Jessica Meir works at Harvard Medical School and MGH.

NASA

Maine resident Jessica Meir works at Harvard Medical School and MGH.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA has named eight new astronauts — its first new batch in four years — including Jessica U. Meir, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School.

Meir, 35, a resident of Caribou, Maine, is a graduate of Brown University and the International Space University, and earned a doctorate from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She works at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital.

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The new team has four women, including the first female fighter pilot to become an astronaut in nearly two decades and a helicopter pilot. The four women represent the highest percentage of female astronaut candidates selected by NASA.

Monday’s announcement came on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the launch of the first American woman in space, Sally Ride. She died last summer.

The eight, all in their 30s, were chosen from more than 6,000 applications received early last year, the second largest number ever received. They will report for duty in August at Johnson Space Center in Houston and join 49 astronauts currently at NASA.

The number has dwindled since the space shuttles stopped flying in 2011. Many astronauts quit rather than get in a lengthy line for relatively few slots for long-term missions aboard the International Space Station.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said these new candidates will help lead the first human mission to an asteroid in the 2020s, and then Mars, sometime in the following decade. They also may be among the first to fly to the space station aboard commercial spacecraft launched from the United States, he noted. Russia ferries the astronauts now.

‘‘These new space explorers asked to join NASA because they know we’re doing big, bold things here, developing missions to go farther into space than ever before,’’ Bolden said in a statement.

In addition to Meir, the astronaut class of 2013 includes:

 Josh Cassada, 39, originally from White Bear Lake, Minn., a physicist and a former naval aviator who is chief technology officer at Quantum Opus.

 Navy Lieutenant Commander Victor Glover, 37, from Pomona, Calif., and Prosper, Texas, an F/A-18 pilot serving as Navy legislative fellow in Congress.

Christina Hammock, 34, from Jacksonville, N.C., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration station chief in American Samoa.

 Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Tyler (Nick) Hague, 37, from Hoxie, Kan., working at the Department of Defense.

 Marine Major Nicole Aunapu Mann, 35, from Penngrove, Calif., an F/A 18 fighter pilot serving at the Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Md.

 Army Major Anne McClain, from Spokane, Wash., an OH-58 helicopter pilot.

 Army Major Andrew R. Morgan, 37, from New Castle, Pa., an emergency room physician and flight surgeon.

“This year we have selected eight highly qualified individuals who have demonstrated impressive strengths academically, operationally, and physically” said Janet Kavandi, director of flight crew operations at Johnson Space Center. “They have diverse backgrounds and skill sets that will contribute greatly to the existing astronaut corps.’’

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