Sugar Land woman among 12 in NASA’s new astronaut class

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Published 12:18 pm, Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Loral O’Hara, one of 12 new astronauts in NASA’s 2017 class, is actually a rocket scientist. Seriously.

She studied liquid rocket engines in graduate school after earning an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering.

O’Hara, 34, also returns home for her two years of training. Born in Houston, she grew up in Sugar Land and graduated from Fort Bend ISD’s Clements High School.

In a brief interview Tuesday morning before a news conference at Johnson Space Center with the dozen new astronauts, O’Hara discussed how her interest in space was nurtured early at Quail Valley Elementary School in Missouri City.

She interacted with Johnson Space Center through field trips and, in second grade, by planting sunflower seeds that had flown on the space shuttle.

“That kind of sparked an early interest in space flight and I was always interested in exploration, just in general, so that’s kind of what I’ve done – sort of kind of focused my career on exploring Earth up until now and now I’m getting into space flight,” O’Hara said.

She encourages young people who aspire to become astronauts to study fields in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math.

“Get interested in one of those. Figure out what your interest is in those fields and then pursue it,” she said. “I think the other part of that is finding something that you’re really excited in and that you’d be happy doing if you never became an astronaut. It’s that enthusiasm that’ll make you excel in that field and be a competitive applicant.”

At 11:45 local time, the 2017 class was set to have a live conversation with colleagues on the International Space Station.

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