We’re so excited to introduce America’s new astronauts! After evaluating a record number of applications, we’re proud to present our 2017 astronaut class!
These 12 new astronaut candidates were chosen from more than 18,300 people who submitted applications from December 2015 to February 2016. This was more than double the previous record of 8,000 set in 1978.
This Washington native graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor’s degree in Systems Engineering. A Gates Cambridge Scholar, Barron earned a Master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Cambridge.
She enjoys hiking, backpacking, running and reading.
Zena is a native of Virginia and completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Master of Science degree in Marine Sciences at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her research has focused on microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments.
In her free time, she enjoys canoeing, caving, raising backyard chickens and glider flying.
Raja is an Iowa native and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1999 with Bachelor’s degrees in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He continued on to earn a Master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.
He has accumulated more than 2,000 hours of flight time in the F-35, F-15, F-16 and F-18 including F-15E combat missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This Colorado native earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of San Diego and a Master of Science degree in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He graduated from U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.
He has more than 1,600 hours of flight time in 28 aircraft, 400 carrier-arrested landigns and 61 combat missions.
Bob is a Pennsylvania native and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Boston University. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, where he earned a Master’s degree in Flight Test Engineering. He continued on to earn a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Alabama.
During the last five years, he has served as a research pilot at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Nicknamed “Woody”, this Pennsylvania native earned a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkley.
This California native trained and operated as a Navy SEAL, completing more than 100 combat operations and earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat “V”. Afterward, he went on to complete a degree in Mathematics at the University of San Diego and a Doctorate of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
His interests include spending time with his family, volunteering with non-profit vertern organizations, academic mentoring, working out and learning new skills.
Robb is an Alaska native and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Denver, before going on to complete a Master’s degree in Materials Science and a Doctorate in Engineering at the University of California, San Diego.
He is a private pilot and also enjoys playing piano, photography, packrafting, running, cycling, backcountry skiing and SCUBA diving.
This New York native earned a Bachlor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed by a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.
She is also a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and has accumulated mofre than 1,600 hours of flight time and 150 combat missions.
a highly trained covert operative with extensive knowledge of black ops tactics who has been able to successfully evade and outsmart authorities and terrorists alike since the fall of Overwatch
doesn't know what a code name is and can't tell a robot from a horse
Do you have any advice for writing characters undercover? Thanks!
So, we’ve covered this topic a lot in the past. Undercover operatives, intelligence agents, black ops, assassins, and spies I’d start with a spies search on our website, as that’ll get you started. The really good references will be there. My
big advice for writing any kind of spy fiction is to have a clear idea
of what you want and which genre you’re chasing. Do want James Bond or George Smiley? You can blend these genres, but it’s a good idea to have a clear idea as that’ll define your narrative.
The first thing to understand about spies and any sort of shadow operative is the Burn Notice quote: “A spy is just a criminal with a government paycheck.”
Take a look at this passage. This is a character (Thirteen) trained as
an undercover operative exiting a bad situation. What do you see?
Limping down the hall, I forced one foot before the other. Slowly, my stride lengthened. The silver door at the end didn’t open, so I pushed it, and stumbled out onto the launch pad. My gaze fell on a string of oval automatic airstreams parked all in a row. No, I frowned, eyes sweeping to street and the vehicles winging by in the air overhead. No self-respecting AI would let me drive in this condition. Robots always insisted on hospital, and I had no time to hack. To get out fast, I needed a human. A cabbie. Older, preferably female. Fingers to my neck, I tapped twice. Up came the ODS, my thoughts linking to: call a cab. Human.
A string of numbers and faces appeared before my eyes, the oldworld men and women working a dying industry. Better for No Questions Asked rides in our digital world, no one else called when they could pay a corporate run robot for half the cost.
I picked the first female face that flashed across my dash.
Time to pick up… thirty seconds.
I gripped my injured arm, and ran an analysis. Tucked out of sight, Sixteen’s pistol rested against my ribs. Ammunition at less than half a magazine, so seven rounds. Eight, if I counted the one in the chamber. The Uplink already registered the irreparable damage and severed the blood flow to the damaged limb. So, no more bleeding out. My upper lip curled. A bad trade off for no more arm. Damn, Sixteen.
I couldn’t hide in the shadows. Needed to seem desperate, distraught. Call up tears.
My blurred gaze flicked to the skyline, watching for black. The Ghosts wouldn’t appear in the datastream. Still, NIS hadn’t cut my access. Not yet.
A beat up airstream in ruby red dropped out of the sky to the left, pulling up to the curb. They were early. From the shabby state of their car, probably desperate. Good.
I limped over quickly. Even if they weren’t my ride, they were human and sitting in the driver’s seat. A car enthusiast who needed no AI systems to handle the steering. Likely to have built in cameras. More likely to possess a slow Uplink. Slow data received poor police service. My fingers seized the handle, flung open the door, and threw myself inside.
“Need a ride?” the voice was sympathetic, unfamiliar.
I slid across the bench into the seat behind the driver. My free hand tight on my damaged limb, couldn’t do much about my nose. So, instead, I tilted my head and caught her reflection in the mirror. Younger. Mid-thirties. Red hair worn short with one gray streak, tied back in a severe bun. Clear hazel eyes. Talk like you’re in pain, scared, but putting on a brave face. Tears. I wiped the blood from underneath my nose, sniffling. “Y-y-yeah.” I cleared my throat. “Yeah. Thanks.” I tried for a half-smile, half-grimace, and leaned on the window. “Just looking to get away. The address should be—”
“You don’t need to worry, I have it,” the driver said. “Came in with your order. Grace, right? You want to go downbelow, the Rep Shop.”
“Yeah.” Resting my cheek against the glass, I closed my eyes; Uplink sizing up her car’s systems. Automatic turned off, but easy enough to hijack. My free hand drifted off my injury, and moved near the pistol hilt jabbing my ribs.
“I’m Marla, I’ll be your driver today.” A pause followed. “You sure a pretty girl like you wants the Rep Shop? Not a hospital? You look pretty banged up.”
“No,” I replied. I got what she suggested, this was a nice neighborhood. “I just need… need to go…”
I grimaced, eyes squeezing shut, and wished I felt a twinge of guilt. It’s like the Overseer always says, love is just a cover.
“Don’t worry, no need to say it,” Marla said as the engine revved, the floorplates shook, and the airstream lifted skyward. “Shipped enough victims out of here to know.”
Notice, she pays attention to her surroundings and makes choices based on her condition in service of her needs. She needs to get out quickly, but would run into more trouble stealing a car so she calls up a cab driven by a human. Human’s are easier to manipulate in short order than code cracking. She specifically aims for a female cab driver, one preferably older than she is.
She’s female. Another woman is more likely to assume her injuries are because of a man, and a cab driver will have encountered this scenario often enough to not pry too deeply into it. An older woman is likelier to be maternal and protective, but not so protective that she’ll stay beyond when Thirteen needs her too. However, pay attention to the fact that Thirteen never verbally confirms it was a man who caused her injuries. She lets Marla assume, and fill in the blanks herself. This gives her an out later if she needs to change her story and place the blame on Marla’s shoulders for misunderstanding.
This is an example of what’s called social engineering.
Deliberately manipulating the people in your environment to divulge
confidential information or getting them to do what you want.
Notice also: After getting into the vehicle, Thirteen’s hand goes to the gun she stole. As she is playing to Marla’s sympathies, she is also assessing the possibility of killing this woman and taking control of the car if things don’t go the way she’s planned. Thirteen would prefer to exit by the easiest means possible, but a good spy always has a contingency. She won’t compromise her safety, and civilian lives mean next to nothing. A dead body is one more problem to deal with, one more attention getter that she doesn’t want, but she’ll go there. Violence is messy, and sometimes necessary.
There’s no real difference between a spy and a conman. Still, if you want to trick people there’s a few rules to follow.
What a spy isn’t:
A compulsive liar, an overseller, or lies all the time. An undercover operative needs to maintain their identity, that is one identity, singular. While a spy can create many false personalities, they should only be using one at a time with the goal of giving away as little information in trade as possible.
Notice: Thirteen does not tell Marla a story, she lets Marla create the story and then plays along. It is easier to convince someone of a lie when they’ll craft it themselves. Why say something when you can get just as much by saying nothing at all?
“You’ve told her three lies. Suppose she’s an asset, now you have to make all three lies true.” - Spy Game
Your character can’t just lie, a liar will be caught after a prolonged period of time. They need to manipulate the truth by creating a fiction. A cover is a fictional person with a fictional job who people think really exists when they check the character’s identity. Assume their identity will be checked, re-checked, and checked again. They are not maintaining a cover to a singular individual, but multiple ones. Their assets are the locals they are manipulating in order gain access to information, and who often run the jobs for them. These assets will, most of the time, not know the truth or not know the whole truth about who the spy really is.
Assets can be friends, business associates, girlfriends/boyfriends, wives/husbands, disgruntled employees, janitors, etc.
Your character can’t enter a business or government agency as a pretend janitor if they’re also going there everyday as a reporter or contractor or some other job. They must maintain the fiction of their identity.
This is the biggest problem most authors will get into when writing spy fiction. The concept of telling lies is something that comes easily to most of us, the problem comes in with keeping up a fiction over a prolonged period of time. The next step is to be able to lie without guilt and throw over people who help you without remorse. Crafting that dual identity of a person who genuinely cares about their friends and allies versus the real one who… really doesn’t.
You need a solid grasp of social functions, mores, and conventions in order to write a spy because a spy is manipulating all those points to gain access. You also need to understand these rules change based on what society your character is entering. Social rules change based on social groups, be it economic or cultural. The expectations for a man or woman in Mexico City versus Seattle are vast, and your character needs to be versed in the world they’re walking into. They need a cover identity to suit their work. Someone who has the freedom to go many places without being questioned, but unimportant enough to be neither needed nor remembered.
A spy is always looking for a way in, to slide into your confidences or sympathies however they can. They are going to use you to get where they need to go. They are very convincing actors and they are changing, modifying themselves slightly for each person they encounter. Not so much though that their falseness becomes obvious to the other people who know them.
When we’re working with a female spy, for example, all the “bad woman” societal traits you’re inclined to throw away are exactly what she needs to succeed. She will flirt, and flatter, and seduce, and manipulate the men (and women) around her to gain entry. She may rotate between being a gorgeous woman and an unremarkable one by the use of fashion and makeup. She is exactly what so many men are afraid of, a social climber who is manipulating their feelings and her attractiveness in order to get what she wants because it is the most expedient method to get what she needs. The one who is manipulating society’s view of women as nonentities, nonthreatening/replaceable objects in order to do her job.
Don’t be afraid of these characters. Don’t be afraid of “unlikeable” characters.
Spies are bad people who do bad things. They are often cold, calculating, impersonal manipulators looking for the most expedient method to get what they need. Your spy’s cover is just a cover. Never forget the real person underneath, especially when they’re lying to themselves.
Warrior Wednesday: U.S. Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Force Reconnaissance Detachment conduct military operations in urban terrain training aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 19, 2015. These Marines are a part of the MEU’s Maritime Raid Force. The training provides the MEU with the opportunity to train for similar environments in preparation for their upcoming deployment.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos/Released)
Russian, Serbian and Belarusian soldiers train together in Operation Slavic Brotherhood. The training focuses on counter-terrorism scenarios, but particularly on raiding base camps of known terrorist groups. (GRH)
So, becuase I keep forgetting to make an about page, I’ve got a few comorbid mental disorders (depression, bipolar, PTSD and ADHD), which can make my life unnecessarily difficult sometimes. Fortunately, I have a secret weapon:
I’ve had Charlie since august, and he’s been doing a great job keeping me alive and operational. I’ve trained him personally to suit my particular needs, and yesterday he saw my therapist and psychologist to verify he is helping.
So far he does the following:
Wakes me up every morning at 9AM and harasses me until I actually get up, preventing 20-hour depression naps.
Will fetch for me, by name: my Phone, water bottle, medication and bag of chips. I have a frequent problem with low blood sugar and forgetting to take my meds. Hard to forget when I get woken up by him throwing the pill bottle at me.
We’re working on shoes.
comes to check on me every 90 minutes, and demands I get up and walk him every three hours, keeping me from Not Eating and an a regular exercise schedule.
Keeping on a regular daily schedule is helpful for both my memory problems and preventing mood swings.
Also, hard to feel suicidal when i;m responsible for his welfare.
Sits ON me during panic attacks, which is very grounding.
Not precisely trained but: tends to be very reactive to small noises or flashing lights, so I use him as a verification system to see if I’m hallucinating or not.
So, charlie now has a piece of paper certifying that he helps keep me alive, so i effectively have a prescription for Dog. This means I am not charged Pet Rent, no can I be excluded from housing for having him under the ADA. It DOES NOT mean I can take him into grocery stores or other places dogs are not normally allowed, but I don’t really need him there anyway.
The 101st Airborne Division was a U.S. Army modular light infantry division trained for air assault operations. During World War II, it was renowned for its role in Operation Overlord during the D-Day landings at Normandy where they led the night drop prior to the invasion.
The tribal delegation visiting Sheikh Abdelraouf al-Dhahab was still talking in the very early hours of the morning last Sunday when his nephew, Abdullah, noticed strangers approaching on foot across the rocky, inhospitable terrain of central Yemen.
“Who are you?” Abdullah called out into the night. “Who are you?”
The men shot him dead.
Startled by the gunfire, the Dhahab family scrambled to take up its own weapons and defend its house.
According to accounts by locals, this was the way the battle began with U.S. special operations forces and some of their allies, which would unfold over several hours on the ground — and end with an aerial bombardment.
By dawn, one American sailor was dead and three other service members were injured. Locals say numerous civilians, including women and nine children, were among the Yemenis killed. The U.S. military has opened an investigation, and U.S. military officials tell NPR that civilians were indeed among the victims.
Taken together, claims and counterclaims from the U.S. military and local residents described a chaotic operation, one that drew sharp criticism from Yemeni officials who usually support the U.S. The aftermath of the raid shows the potential dangers if the U.S. military relaxes its current restrictions about using force and protecting civilians, which President Donald Trump has asked the Pentagon to review.
Photo: Mass Communication Spc. 2nd Class Meranda Keller/U.S. Navy Caption: Navy SEALs participate in special operations urban combat training in 2012. The training exercise familiarizes special operators with urban environments and tactical maneuvering during night and day operations.
on train A, my right knee knocks into a stranger’s by accident and i stuff my fist into my pocket. on train B, a girl in a blue jacket shoulder-checks you halfway down the aisle and you reach for her hand. if one of us is headed north and the other is running circles in the south, is this still the game we play? you are moving at a different speed, and i cannot tell if i am going slower, maybe faster, maybe just in a different direction, but if train A has stopped writing love poems and train B is still sending drunk texts, when do the they meet?
maybe it doesn’t matter. maybe they both keep going and no one, not one single soul, ever thinks anything of it. maybe they are both only trains and they both keep being only trains after their paths cross in some phenomenally unimportant eclipse of metal and years later, with more miles between them than anyone can count, neither will remember where they were headed that night. in this universe, the train operators go home to their children without any stories. in this universe, the trains run together with a hundred others and weeds never grow on the tracks. i am falling in love with someone else’s laugh for the fifth time in a week and there are no songs that remind me of you.
in another, the trains crash into one another. head on, full speed, in broad daylight. strangers build memorials to the wreckage; they leave crosses by the tracks, silk flowers that the wind drags away. my grandmother whispers the gory details of it all over phone lines to her church friend, and it’s all too much to speak about too loudly. the gasoline blast takes out every tree in its radius and it so grand, such a terrible disaster that the paper mill salvages them to print the newspaper. the crash makes the front page it makes every page; someone draws a comic strop, a frame by frame recreation of this awful accident, complete with a speech bubble taking up half the page, full of how it sounded when everyone’s mothers cried. strangers hang the clippings on their friend until they turn to dust, crumbling with postcards and grocery lists under magnets from the grand canyon, disneyworld, aarp.
in either universe, collision or no, i am trying to convince myself that it is not romantic. there is nothing about me or you that could be described as wreckage, or metal, or barreling towards or away from anything. all the metaphors, all the trains with their arrival times and my shaking fingers and your aching neck they’re just metaphors. we are just skin. just two people on different tracks and our relative proximity to each other doesn’t change this.