Feature   Know Your Military

Face of Defense: To the Moon … And Beyond!

Jan. 16, 2020 | BY Katie Lange , DOD News

Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli isn't the first female active-duty Marine officer to pass the NASA astronaut training program, but her recent graduation means she's on the short list to be the first woman to go to the moon.

Moghbeli and 10 others were the first graduates under the Artemis program, meaning they're now eligible for missions to the International Space Station, the moon and — one day — Mars. Moghbeli was commissioned in 2005 after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She became a naval aviator and spent the next decade piloting AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters and test piloting various others. In her career, she's flown 25 different aircraft, accumulated 2,000 flight hours, and more than 150 combat missions. Moghbeli's next test flight will take her further than she's ever gone before, and she's excited about it. But how did she get here and what lies ahead for her? She filled us in on the details. 

A female astronaut wearing a blue flight suit and NASA-logoed helmet poses in front of a T-38 Talon trainer airplane.
Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli
NASA astronaut candidate Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli stands in front of a T-38 Talon trainer aircraft at Ellington Field near NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, June 6, 2017.
Photo By: Robert Markowitz, NASA
VIRIN: 161128-O-ZZ999-324

Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli
Job Title: NASA Astronaut
Hometown: Baldwin, New York
Unit: NASA Astronaut Group 22, ''The Turtles''
Stationed: Johnson Space Center, Houston

What was the process of getting into the astronaut candidate program? 

I just submitted a resume on USAJobs.gov. It sounds almost underwhelming, right? Then, I came back here [to Johnson Space Center] for two rounds of interviews and got accepted to the program.

Tell me about the training you went through.  

The training was really exciting and diverse. You have to be able to do a little bit of everything as an astronaut because, up in space, you're the doctor; you're the maintainer; you're the scientist and the spacewalker; and, so, the variety of things we've learned over these two years has been incredible. Some of the major courses we learned were robotics, learning to speak Russian, learning about the International Space Station and its systems, and learning how to do spacewalks. Then, there's flying the T-38 jets!

A trainee wearing a mask, helmet and what appears to be parachute cables listens to a man wearing a red hardhat. A pool is in the background.
Water Survival Training
NASA astronaut candidate Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli awaits next steps by instructors during water survival refresher training at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Sept. 6, 2017.
Photo By: James Blair, NASA
VIRIN: 170906-O-ZZ999-978D
A woman wearing a large blow-up vest and helmet sits in an inflatable in a pool while taking instruction from a man in the water in a diving suit with snorkel.
Water Survival Training
During water survival training at Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Sept. 6, 2017, NASA astronaut candidate Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli is guided through training by divers.
Photo By: James Blair, NASA
VIRIN: 170906-O-ZZ999-908D

What did you struggle with most? 

The hardest part, for me, was the training in the neutral buoyancy lab. That’s where we trained for spacewalks. I’ve watched astronauts do spacewalks before, and you think, 'Wow, they make it look so easy and so smooth,' and that the suit is just an extension of their body. But then I got in there for the first time, and it’s just completely different than you'd imagined. You now have to walk with your hands, and anytime you squeeze your hands to do anything, you’re fighting the pressure in the suit. It was just really tricky learning how to move within that suit. It's your own personal spacecraft at that point, and [you're] learning how to work with it by fighting against it.

Three women huddle around a rock as they sit at an outdoor picnic table at night. One holds a flashlight while a second scans a rock on the table with a device.
Sample Scan
NASA astronaut candidate Loral O’Hara scans her sample during data collection during geology training in Arizona, Sept. 16, 2019, as candidates Jasmin Moghbeli and Kayla Baron watch.
Photo By: Bill Stafford, NASA
VIRIN: 190916-O-ZZ999-185
Seven people in military camouflage sit and stand around a table looking at maps in what appears to be a wooden log cabin.
Wilderness Survival Training
NASA astronaut candidates Jasmin Moghbeli and Frank Rubio discuss their next plan of action while fellow astronaut candidates and their instructor study their topographical maps during wilderness survival training at the Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School in Brunswick, Maine, May 30, 2018.
Photo By: Josh Valcarcel, NASA
VIRIN: 180530-O-ZZ999-116

What did you do best during training? 

Something that I thought would be a challenge that I did well at was learning Russian. I've really enjoyed learning another language, learning about their culture. We have one-on-one instruction, and my instructor is absolutely incredible. That was something I knew would be a real challenge, but I feel like I really progressed in it.

How did you feel when they announced that you were officially an astronaut? 

I felt honored to be joining the company of so many amazing women and men.

An astronaut candidate wearing a spacesuit without the helmet smiles.
Astronaut Smile
NASA astronaut candidate Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli wears a spacesuit prior to underwater spacewalk training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, April 11, 2018.
Photo By: NASA/Josh Valcarcel
VIRIN: 180411-O-ZZ999-049

Was this a dream of yours growing up?

I was actually born in Germany, but I grew up in Baldwin, New York, on Long Island. I went through kindergarten and high school there, and I dreamed of being exactly where I am today, which is really exciting for me. I wanted to be an astronaut since I was a kid, and when you say in sixth grade, 'I want to become an astronaut' nobody thinks you're actually going to become an astronaut. While it wasn't always the main focus of what I was doing at each point in my life, it's always been there in the background, driving the general path of where I've been going.

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli, a pilot assigned to Marine Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1, conducts her final flight in an AH-1 "Cobra" at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., June 7, 2017. Maj. Moghbeli will report to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, later this year to attend the NASA Astronaut Candidate Class of 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo taken by Lance Cpl. Christian Cachola)
Maj. Moghbeli's Final Flight
U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli, a pilot assigned to Marine Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1, conducts her final flight in an AH-1 "Cobra" at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., June 7, 2017. Maj. Moghbeli will report to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, later this year to attend the NASA Astronaut Candidate Class of 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo taken by Lance Cpl. Christian Cachola)
Photo By: Lance Cpl. Christian Oliver Cachola
VIRIN: 170707-M-BY246-082

Was the Marine Corps an asset to your success? 

Being in the Marine Corps was a huge asset. It’s a testament to all those people and the mentorship. The Marine Corps played a very important part in shaping me and giving me a lot of the skills I needed – not just the hard skills but a lot of the soft skills, like how to communicate and how to take my entire team into consideration and not just my personal needs. It's hard to teach those things, but we do it very well in the Marine Corps. And my test piloting background — the operational experience and the engineering side of that — both tie in perfectly here. 

Four astronaut candidates in flight suits smile at the camera as they float in a reduced gravity environment on an airplane.
Reduced Gravity
NASA astronaut candidates Bob Hines, Matthew Dominick, Jasmin Moghbeli, top right, and Raja Chari take hold to their surroundings during a reduced gravity flight aboard Canadian Space Agency’s Dassault Falcon 20 Jet, Feb. 21, 2018.
Photo By: Robert Markowitz, NASA
VIRIN: 180220-O-ZZ999-249D

As an official astronaut, what's next on your agenda? 

It's a super exciting time to be in human space exploration. We've been on the International Space Station for almost 20 years continuously now, and we've got several new vehicles on the horizon. There's Boeing and Space X, both with their commercial crew vehicles. NASA is developing Orion and the Space Launch System to go onto the moon, and there's Mars with the [Lunar] Gateway program. So, there are a lot of exciting things. Right now, in my day to day, I'm focused on the human lander system and getting us to the moon.

Do you think you could be the first female astronaut to get to the moon? 

There is a chance, but at this point I’m just excited that I’ll know the first woman to be on the moon!

An astronaut in a blue flight suit sits on darkened steps, clasping her hands. A blue light illuminates a control room in the background.
Astronaut Portrait
NASA astronaut candidate Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli poses for a portrait in the Johnson Space Center’s Systems Engineering Simulator, an engineering simulator for advanced spaceflight programs, July 9, 2019.
Photo By: Bill Ingalls, NASA
VIRIN: 190709-O-ZZ999-385D

In 2015, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Nicole Mann became the first female Marine to graduate from the astronaut program and she mentored you. What would you say to her for that? 

You've been an inspiration to me. She was my mentor right from the beginning — called me before I ever showed up here and made sure I had what I needed. Watching you and knowing you're going to be the first person on the launch of a new spacecraft is such an inspiration.

What drives you to do better? 

I think the same thing that pushes people in the military every day — your sisters and brothers to your left and right. We're in a similar job here where your failures ... there are life or death situations here. What we do inherently is risky because we're constantly pushing the boundaries and just thinking, 'I need to focus because my buddy could be on that vehicle I was working on.' And I think that motivates me a lot. 

A pilot in flight suit sits beside a teenager who’s using the joystick of a computer simulator. Both are watching a screen.
170304-M-UA667-016
Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli, an AH-1 Cobra helicopter pilot, assists an attendee of a Women in Aviation's Girls in Aviation Day symposium in Orlando Fla., March 4, 2017. The conference allows Marines to connect with young men and women interested in aviation careers and to let them know that the Marine Corps is a viable option for them.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Logan Block
VIRIN: 170304-M-UA667-016D

What advice would you give to future generations of Marines? 

Whatever you're interested in, have that vision of what you want to do, but also don't forget to focus on what you're doing in the moment. I wasn’t always assigned to the job I wanted to be assigned to, but I put my effort into that to the best of my ability and tried to do the best I could at that job. So, whether you're sweeping floors or doing something really cool, just do the best you can do. 

Also, I think something that gets lost sometimes is being kind to others. When you're in the position to mentor someone, think back to when you were in their position and first learning something. Just remember we're all on the same team.