NASA picks 12 new astronauts, including 3 with ties to SoCal

NASA announced its latest class of astronaut candidates Thursday, including at least three with ties to the Southland. The candidates will report for duty with NASA in August.

Of the 12 candidates, at least three have Southland ties:

-- Dr. Jonny Kim is a Los Angeles native and Santa Monica High School graduate. He earned a degree in mathematics at University of San Diego and a doctorate of medicine from Harvard Medical School. He enlisted in the Navy after high school and served on SEAL Team Three, based in San Diego, serving as a medic, sniper and point man on more than 100 combat operations during two deployments to the Middle East. He most recently worked as an emergency doctor at Partners Healthcare at Massachusetts General Hospital.

-- Robb Kulin, an Alaska native, is a senior manager for flight reliability at Hawthorne-based aerospace company SpaceX, where he began working in 2011. He has a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Denver and two degrees from UC San Diego: a master's in materials science and a doctorate in engineering.

-- Jessica Watkins, a Maryland native, has a doctorate in geology from UCLA. She worked as a teaching assistant in earth and planetary science courses at UCLA and is a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at Caltech, where she collaborated at Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity.

All of the astronaut candidates will undergo two years of training, then will be assigned to NASA's Astronaut Office performing "technical duties'' while awaiting possible flight assignments.

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