Tri-Cities astronaut Kayla Barron is set to make her first flight into space as soon as this fall.
Barron, who grew up in Richland and graduated from Richland High School, was assigned this week to serve as a mission specialist for the NASA SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station.
The mission could launch as soon as Oct. 23, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
“I couldn’t ask for a better team or a more incredible adventure,” Barron posted on her NASA Facebook page.
She said she was “honored and excited” to be joining two other NASA astronauts and a European Space Agency astronaut on the space flight to the International Space Station.
They are expected to spend about six months working on science projects made possible by the microgravity environment in the orbiting laboratory.
Barron had already been preparing for a possible space station mission.
In March, she spent two days practicing living in the simulated International Space Station at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, she posted to her NASA Facebook page.
She’s also practiced in virtual reality using a jet pack to fly back to the space station in the event she floats away.
“I’m grateful we use VR to practice this here on Earth — it’s definitely not something you’d want to try for the first time when you’re tumbling off into space!” she posted on social media.
Don’t worry, she told her mother in the same message — “that has never happened IRL because we are tethered to structure to prevent it!”
She’s learned how to use the Canadian Space Agency Canadarm 2, a robotic arm to grab a cargo vehicle so that it can be plugged into the International Space Station.
It required serious teamwork, she posted.
She’s also been practicing scientific skills she may use onboard, including a method to rapidly copy a specific DNA sample for DNA sequencing aboard the space station.
The ability to sequence DNA in space “is a total game changer, opening up enormous medical and scientific research possibilities,” she posted.
Barron became a NASA astronaut in January 2020 as one of 11 astronauts to complete two years of training. That included learning to fly a T-38 jet and simulated space walks in a 40-foot-deep pool that simulates weightlessness.
Her training class was the first to graduate from the NASA Artemis program launched with a goal of returning humans to the moon by 2024 and then sending people to Mars.
Graduates knew the training qualified them not only for the planned return to the moon but also the possibility they could be sent to the International Space Station.
They were picked to start training in summer 2017 from a record-setting pool of more than 18,000 applicants to become astronauts.
Barron, whose parents Scott and Lauri Sax live in the Tri-Cities, previously graduated with a degree in systems engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2010.
She then earned a master’s in nuclear engineering from the University of Cambridge in England, in 2011, as Gates Cambridge Scholar.
She was a member of the first class of women commissioned to be a submarine officer and completed three deterrent patrols while serving aboard the USS Maine.
At the time of her selection as an astronaut candidate in 2017, she was serving as the flag aide to the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy.
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