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New Astronaut Group Starts Its Training

August 18, 1987|United Press International

HOUSTON — A year of intensive training and evaluation started Monday at the Johnson Space Center for the first group of astronauts selected since the Challenger disaster.

The group includes Mae C. Jemison, 30, of Los Angeles, a doctor and the first black woman named to the shuttle astronaut corps.

"I'm excited and thrilled," Jemison, 30, had said in an interview when she was selected in June. "I've wanted to be an astronaut since I was a child."

Five of the new astronauts are civilians, 10 are military officers and two are women, Jemison and Jan Dozier, 33, of Huntsville, Ala., an employee at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

Coast Guard Officer

The group includes also the first Coast Guard officer chosen as an astronaut, Lt. Cmdr. Bruce E. Melnick, 37, of Traverse City, Mich.

Four of the 15 candidates are current employees of the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"This week will be used for those who need to find a place to live, locate an office, be processed to get health insurance and all the personnel forms and things they need to fill out," Space Center spokesman Steve Nesbitt said Monday, the group's first day on the job.

Orientation sessions begin next week, he said, with the astronauts starting wilderness survival training on Aug. 30 near Spokane, Wash. That will be followed by briefings on various aspects of the space program.

Once the 15 candidates are assigned to the astronaut office--no one has ever failed at this stage--NASA will have nearly 100 astronauts on flight status.

The candidates were named on June 5. NASA received 1,962 applications, of which 117 candidates were selected for interviews and physical examinations.

The first post-Challenger shuttle flight is tentatively scheduled for June 2, 1988. The last astronaut class was named in June, 1985, but the Jan. 28, 1986, Challenger disaster disrupted plans for an additional group last year.

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