Houston-area native Loral O’Hara excited to be among NASA’s 2017 astronaut candidate class

  • Loral OHara, 34, is the second Houstonian in NASA's history to be selected as a member of an astronaut candidate class. She'll report to the Johnson Space Center in August. Photo provided by NASA. Photo: NASA / NASA - Johnson Space Center

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Loral O’Hara, 34, is the second Houstonian in NASA’s history to be selected as a member of an astronaut candidate class. She’ll report to the Johnson Space Center in August. Photo provided by NASA.

Loral O’Hara, 34, is the second Houstonian in NASA’s history to be selected as a member of an astronaut candidate class. She’ll report to the Johnson Space Center in August. Photo provided by NASA.


Photo: NASA

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.


Photo: NASA

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.


Photo: NASA

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.


Photo: NASA

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.


Photo: NASA

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.


Photo: NASA

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.


Photo: NASA

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.


Photo: NASA

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.


Photo: NASA

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.


Photo: NASA

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.


Photo: NASA

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.


Photo: NASA

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.

NASA’s newest class of 2017 astronaut candidates.


Photo: NASA


For the second time in NASA’s history, a Houston native has been selected to be one of the space agency’s astronaut candidates.

Loral O’Hara, who graduated from Fort Bend ISD’s Clements High School in 2001, was one of 12 astronaut candidates chosen from more than 18,300 applicants, according to the space agency.

O’Hara and 11 other members of NASA’s 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class will report for duty at the Johnson Space Center in August. They were welcomed Wednesday by Vice President Mike Pence.


The 34-year-old couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday afternoon, but told the media this week that growing up in the Houston area afforded her early opportunities to get involved with space, like when her second-grade class grew tomato seeds that ultimately flew in a space shuttle.

“Opportunities like that were kind of unique to growing up in Houston,” O’Hara said. “That set me on the path to taking advantage of opportunities with NASA down the road too, like in high school I used to watch the space shuttle debriefings when they used to do those in the space center.”

O’Hara said she met the first Houstonian to become an astronaut – Shannon Walker – while she interviewed for the astronaut position.

O’Hara was born in Houston before her family moved to Sugar Land, where she attended Quail Valley Elementary, First Colony Middle School and Clements High School. She told Fort Bend ISD’s media relations department that she credits her community, schools and teachers with preparing her to get to where she is today, although she struggled with one subject in particular.

“My favorite subjects in school when I was younger were probably English and art. I also loved science, but my worst subject was actually math. I struggled with math the whole way through,” O’Hara told the Fort Bend ISD.

After graduating from Clements, O’Hara earned a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Kansas. She also received a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Purdue University in 2009.

More recently, O’Hara worked for Stone Aerospace in Austin, Texas as a design engineer and as a project engineer at Rocketplane Limited in Oklahoma City, Okla. She was a research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts when she was selected to become an astronaut candidate.

She said her parents and sister still live in the Houston area, although she herself has not called the area home since her high school days.

“I’m really excited to move back to Houston,” O’Hara said.


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