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Meet Andre Douglas, NASA’s Only Black 2021 Astronaut Candidate Class Member

NASA’s 2021 astronaut candidate class has been announced, and among the ten candidates chosen is Andre Douglas, who has had his sights set on the stars for as long as he can remember.

The prestigious class of 2021 marks NASA’s first astronaut class in four years, selected from more than 12,000 applicants who used an online assessment tool and, for the first time ever, were required to hold a master’s degree in a STEM field.

NASA Astronaut Candidate Andre Douglas Credits: NASA

The group will “represent the United States and work for humanity’s benefit in space,” which includes the possibility of completing a moon mission, or beyond, in the near future.

“Today we welcome 10 new explorers, 10 members of the Artemis generation, NASA’s 2021 astronaut candidate class,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said when introducing the class on Monday, Dec. 6. “Alone, each candidate has ‘the right stuff,’ but together they represent the creed of our country: E pluribus unum – out of many, one.”

The ten candidates, including Douglas, will train for two years beginning January 2022 in lessons including 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.

The 35-year-old Douglas recalls being enthralled by space since the age of 7 and went on to obtain his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the University of Michigan.

He also earned a master’s in naval architecture and marine engineering from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Johns Hopkins University, and a doctorate in systems engineering from the George Washington University.

“There’s a possibility of humans becoming an interplanetary species, and I want to be a part of that effort,” Douglas told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

Throughout his career leading up to his future astronaut status, Douglas served in a variety of positions during his seven years of active Coast Guard duty including a naval architect, salvage engineer, damage control assistant, and officer of the deck. 

The stargazer was most recently employed as a senior staff member at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, where we worked on maritime robotics, planetary defense, and space exploration missions for NASA.

After he completes his training, Douglas could be assigned to any number of missions, from performing research aboard the space station to launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, as well as deep space missions to destinations including the Moon on NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

“Going on any mission would be a dream,” Douglas said. “To see Earth from space is just a dream.”

The soon-to-be-space traveler hopes that his inclusion in the latest class of NASA astronaut candidates proves to future generations that you really can achieve those childhood dreams if you just keep going.

“For all the kids out there today: Follow your dreams,” he said. “If you do what you love, it doesn’t feel hard. You just want to keep going and do more, so you can find out what your maximum potential is. Who can you really be?”

In addition to Douglas, NASA’s full 2021 Astronaut candidate class includes Nichole Ayers, Marcos Berríos, Christina Birch, Deniz Burnham, Luke Delaney, Jack Hathaway, Anil Menon, Christopher Williams, and Jessica Wittner.


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