Lt. Cmdr. Jessica Wittner, a U.S. Navy pilot from Clovis, is among NASA’s 2021 astronaut candidates.
She and nine others were selected from more than 12,000 applicants. The astronaut candidates could be eligible for a variety of space missions once they finish a two-year training program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
NASA has selected 360 astronaut candidates since 1959.
“I first became interested in becoming an astronaut at a very early age,” Wittner said during a NASA ceremony on Monday announcing her selection. “I was that little girl in school who would play with rockets in the park by the house and loved science class. I loved to learn why and how things worked the way that they worked.
“I became a mechanic in an earlier life and when I found out there was a profession that combined all of these things, I was hooked. I was hooked right from the get-go. Every step of my career from then on out had this goal in mind of standing here today as a NASA astronaut candidate with all of my teammates. I’m extremely excited to be part of this team, very honored to be standing up here today, and I’m really excited for all the things NASA has planned for us in the future.”
NASA said those assignments could include missions on and around the moon under Artemis, research aboard the International Space Station, and launching on spacecraft built by commercial companies or NASA.
Wittner’s extensive resume of awards and work experience includes heading the Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-151, the Vigilantes, at Naval Air Station Lemoore when she was selected by NASA, which described her as a naval aviator and test pilot.
NASA said Wittner was born in Fresno and her hometown is Clovis, where her parents still live. She graduated from Buchanan High School in Clovis and went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in aerospace engineering. More recently, she graduated this year from the U.S. Naval War College.