Airman aims high through astronaut program

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- An Life Cycle Management Center program manager is one step closer to being selected to the NASA astronaut program following the Air Force's Astronaut Nomination Board results earlier this spring.

Maj. Angela K. Motlagh, who works in the Battle Management Directorate here, was inspired to apply for the astronaut program by her father, who is a retired 30-year NASA employee.

"In addition to working a full career for NASA as an electrical engineer, my father was one of 16 civilian finalists for the same astronaut program during the early 1980s," she said. "I'm excited at this opportunity to follow in his footsteps."

Among the many requirements to apply for the program, applicants must possess a bachelor's degree in engineering, mathematics, biological science or physical science.

Motlagh graduated from the University of Maryland with an electrical engineering degree and has been in the Air Force for 12 years. If selected, she will serve as a NASA mission specialist.

NASA anticipates selecting between nine to 15 astronaut candidates for the 2017 class. Finalists will be identified in June 2017, and will report to NASA in August 2017. The last NASA astronaut board was completed in 2013.

"While I am a long way from being selected, I am tremendously grateful and humbled to be selected as one of the Air Force nominees," she said. "If it were not for my parents, who were tremendous role models to me and my brothers and sisters, I would not be in the position I'm in today."

Air Force nominees will compete with those from other branches of the military and civilian applicants for astronaut candidate positions.

"I've always thought that if you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything you want," Motlagh said. "I've always strived for the unattainable and I just feel like you can make things happen if you really want it."

In addition to meeting degree requirements, candidates must also have a current flying class II physical and meet specific medical standards as outlined in AFI 36-2205.

"Astronaut candidates are challenged intellectually and physically, so applicants must ensure they are prepared for the challenge," said Maj. Michael Junquist, Air Force Personnel Center Operations Staff and Special Duty Career Management Branch chief.

In August 2017, candidates will enter a one-year training and education program at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Following successful completion of that training, the astronauts will then begin a five-year tour with NASA.

Personnel will have an opportunity to fill flight crews for long-duration missions aboard the International Space Station. Additionally, those selected will contribute to the development of new NASA launch vehicles and spacecraft and participate in planning for future human exploration operations.

Among the more notable Airmen to apply for the space program are former astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Jack Swigert.

"I look forward to representing the Air Force as a nominee as NASA begins the arduous process of selecting the next class of astronaut candidates," Motlagh said.