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Cambridge alumna joins NASA’s 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class

Cambridge alumna joins NASA’s 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class

Gates Cambridge Scholar Kayla Barron, who achieved a Master's degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Cambridge, has been selected as a NASA Astronaut Candidate.

I’m really excited to be a part of NASA’s phenomenal team and to contribute in any way I can. Of course I’d like to be assigned to any projects relating to nuclear power, but that’s a few years down the road once we’ve finished our candidate training.

Kayla Barron, 2017 NASA Astronaut Candidate

Lieutenant Barron (Peterhouse 2011) will join NASA from the U.S. Naval Academy, where she has been serving as the flag aide to the superintendent.

The qualified submarine warfare officer will report for duty in August, when she will begin two years of training. Upon completion, she will be assigned technical duties in the astronaut office while she awaits a flight assignment.

According to NASA, Kayla could be assigned to any of a variety of missions: performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies and departing for deep space missions on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

Speaking at the Announcement Ceremony from Johnson Space Center in Houston, on June 7, Kayla said: “I think we (the Astronaut Candidates) all share the common bond of having come from some amazing teams that really challenge us.

"For me, I’m a submarine warfare officer so I was lucky enough to be part of the navy’s team that operates in confined spaces with limited resources in the hostile environment of the ocean, so I think there are definitely a few parallels with what astronauts are doing on the space station and what we’ll need to learn how to do in order to be successful on long duration, deep space exploration missions.”

Speaking at the news conference, she added: “I’m really excited to be a part of NASA’s phenomenal team and to contribute in any way I can. Of course I’d like to be assigned to any projects relating to nuclear power, but that’s a few years down the road once we’ve finished our candidate training.”

While at Cambridge, the 29-year-old conducted research on modelling the fuel cycle for a next generation, thorium-fuelled nuclear reactor concept.

Dr Geoff Parks, Reader in Nuclear Engineering, supervised her MPhil project, which was entitled The Impact of Fuel Cycle Choice on Accelerator Driven Subcritical Reactor Accelerator Requirements.

"I'm delighted to learn of Kayla's selection as a NASA astronaut candidate," he said. "She made a great impression in the year she was a part of the nuclear engineering research group here in Cambridge and seemed destined for a high-flying career. It's wonderful to think that she may soon be setting a course for the stars."

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