Jasmin 'Jaws' Moghbeli — the first Iranian American astronaut says space 'unites' us all

The National Aeronautics and Space Agency's (NASA) first Indian Iranian astronaut believes human space exploration 'unites' us allNASA
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced its latest batch of 13 graduates, including the first Iranian American astronaut.
  • Jasmin 'Jaws' Moghbeli told AFP that space 'unites' us all.
  • Despite the recent escalation in tensions between US-Iran, the atmosphere within NASA 'hasn't changed'.
Amid the growing tensions between Iran and the US, American space programme's first Iranian-American astronaut — Jasmin 'Jaws' Moghbeli — believes that human space exploration is something that can 'unite' us all.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's ( NASA) 22nd class of astronauts — nicknamed the 'turtles' — graduated from basic training Friday. They are now eligible for spaceflight assignments.

NASA's 22nd graduating class of astronautsNASA

"One of the reasons I love working in human space exploration is, it's something we generally all agree on and unite on," Moghbeli told AFP.
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She cited the success of US-Russian cooperation on the International Space Station ( ISS) despite the otherwise tense relations between the countries.

"I think it is an area where we see diplomacy where we don't see it in other areas," she said.

NASA's 2017 astronaut canditates, including Jasmin Mogheli, stop to take a group photo while getting fitted for flight suits at Ellington Field near NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.NASA

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The first woman on the Moon

According to NASA, the new batch of cadets isn't only destined for the ISS, but also the Moon — and ultimately, Mars. Moghbeli is among the set of candidates who are eligible to be the first woman on the Moon in 2024.

She's a Marin corps major, MIT graduate and a college basketball player. Mogheli told AFP that she hopes her example can inspire others to follow in her footsteps.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, joined by NASA astronaut candidates Matthew Dominick and Jasmin Moghbeli, view the fully assembled core stage for the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket during Artemis Day NASA/Jude Guidry

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Being a person of Middle Eastern descent

Born to Iranian parents in Germany — who had fled Iran as architecture students after the 1979 Islamic Revolution — Moghbeli grew up in Baldwin, New York. She got her first taste of being an astronaut when she attended space camp at 15. Since then, she's had her eyes on the stars.

When Mogheli finally signed up to be an astronaut in 2015 — four years after the September 11 attacks — her parents were worried about what she may have to face as a person of Middle Eastern descent.

Jasmin Moghbeli, as a part of the 2017 NASA astronaut candidates class, visited NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland on 26 September 2018. NASA/Goddard/Taylor Mickal

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To their surprise, no such thing happened. "Once I joined, they gave me absolute support," Mogheli told AFP.

Even after the recent escalation of tensions between Iran and the US after an airstrike ordered by US President Donald Trump killed Qasem Soleimani, Mogheli maintains that nothing has changed.

NASA astronaut candidate Jasmin Moghbeli answers a question during a live episode of the Administrator's monthly chat show, Watch This SpaceNASA/Joel Kowsky

"I haven't in any way felt that changed anything about how I'm treated," she said.
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Raja Chari, an Indian American, is also a part of NASA's 13 new graduates. The space agency is now 48 astronauts strong with plans to grow even further. It is currently contemplating opening the application process for a new set of candidates in spring.

See also:
UAE's first astronaut in space shares a breathtaking picture of Mecca from the ISS

India wants to set up its own space station to carry out experiments in microgravity
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NASA kicks off attempt to set spacewalk record — and here's what's in store
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