KU aerospace grad lands coveted spot in NASA astronaut class

Posted on Jun 7, 2017 in Alumni News and News

2017 Astronaut Class, courtesy of nasa.gov
Loral O'Hara, e'06, member of the 2017 astronaut class | courtesy of nasa.govJayhawk Loral O’Hara, a 2006 graduate of the KU School of Engineering’s aerospace engineering program, on Wednesday was introduced as one of 12 members of NASA’s 2017 astronaut candidate class. After her KU graduation, O’Hara earned a master’s degree at Purdue University. Until joining NASA for the arduous astronaut selection process, O’Hara most recently worked as a research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

O’Hara, e’06, was born in Houston and reared in nearby Sugar Land, Texas. When her NASA class was introduced during a ceremony at Johnson Space Center, O’Hara was quick to note her joy in reaching a lifelong dream in her hometown.

“Growing up in Houston, I had Johnson Space Center right down the road and I was able to visit often,” O’Hara said. “My second-grade class even got to grow tomato plants that flew on the space shuttle, a program that I actually recently just found out is going on today with students flying seeds on the International Space Station. Those early experiences really hooked me and are a big part of what ignited the dream to be an astronaut.”

Among her diverse interests, O’Hara is a private pilot, scuba diver, surfer, sailor, spelunker, painter, certified EMT and wilderness first responder, and she noted that her unusual hobbies helped her join NASA’s latest astronaut candidate class.

“I’ve always been really curious and loved trying new things, learning new skills,” O’Hara said. “I’ve just been fortunate that the experiences that I have always gravitated toward are also those that helped me get up here today, things like fixing engines and flying and diving.”

She reports for duty in August to begin two years of astronaut training, after which she will be assigned technical duties in NASA’s astronaut office while awaiting her first flight assignment.

—Chris Lazzarino

WATCH:
Live video announcement of the 2017 astronaut class from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas

MORE:
KU engineering grad Loral O’Hara becomes new NASA astronaut

Lazzarino profiles KU’s newest astronaut in issue No. 4 of Kansas Alumni magazine, which will be mailed the third week in July.

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