Forty graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy were eventually selected for astronaut training by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The first alumnus to graduate and go on to become an astronaut was Col. Karol Bobko, class of 1959. Some of our most recent alumni to become astronauts were Dr. Kjell Lindgren, class of 1995, and Col. Raja Chari, class of 1999, who were selected for NASA’s Artemis program – making them eligible for future moon missions.
Over one-third of crewed missions have included Academy graduates, thirty-six were part of the Space Shuttle program and fifteen have lived on the International Space Station. Of note, Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, class of 1980, holds the record for the longest single spacewalk and Col. Nick Hague, class of 1998, was the first astronaut to survive an aborted launch.
Historically, NASA has recruited military officers and pilots in particular for astronaut positions, as they favored test pilot experience and those who had the willingness to face dangerous situations. As NASA’s goals and missions have changed, so have astronaut requirements. Today, to be considered our graduates must meet the following qualifications: a bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics; at least three years of related professional experience obtained after degree completion or at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time on jet aircraft; and the ability to pass the long-duration astronaut physical. If approved by the Department of the Air Force and selected for the Astronaut Candidate Program, our graduates are detailed to NASA for a selected period of time and remain in an active duty status.
List of Alumni Astronauts