USA track cyclist launches new career with Nasa

The 10 candidates will go through two years of training with NASA from January 2022

Christina Birch
(Image credit: NASA )

The 11-time American track champion Christina Birch has successfully joined the latest US Astronaut programme by NASA.

Birch has made it to the last 10 candidates to try and become the next group of NASA astronauts to be part of the team working on the International Space Station (ISS).

The 10 candidates stood out amongst a staggering 12,000 applicants with other members of the group being from Navy, Air Force or NASA backgrounds. But Birch does have a stellar set of qualifications in a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biophysics from the University of Arizona.

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She also earned a doctorate in biological engineering from MIT and taught bioengineering at the University of California, Riverside.

Birch's cycling palmarès are of course also impressive. Her career began in cyclocross, but she later went onto the boards of the track where she won 11 national titles, two gold medals at the Pan-American Games as well as a spot on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games long team before retiring

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In the NASA announcement ceremony for the 2021 astronaut class Birch said: "As you can see, from my incredible classmates seated here beside me, there’s really no one path to becoming a NASA astronaut candidate.

"And, you know, you might think that my path as a bio engineer and a cyclist is a little bit out there, but it was really all of those skills that I gained from those experiences that helped me get here. And so I think my advice would be to find something that you’re really interested in—really curious about, passionate about—and explore that deeply.

"And I think if you approach every day trying to do the little things, well, they will add up to something really big, and that might be sitting here someday as a NASA astronaut candidate."

The astronaut candidates will report for duty at the Johnson Space Center in January of 2022 where they will start their two year training plan.

The candidates will be trained on five major categories: operating and maintaining the International Space Station's complex systems, training for spacewalks, developing complex robotics skills, safely operating a T-38 training jet, and Russian language skills.

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Tim Bonville-Ginn

Hi, I'm one of Cycling Weekly's content writers for the web team responsible for writing stories on racing, tech, updating evergreen pages as well as the weekly email newsletter. Proud Yorkshireman from the UK's answer to Flanders, Calderdale, go check out the cobbled climbs!

I started watching cycling back in 2010, before all the hype around London 2012 and Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France. In fact, it was Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck's battle in the fog up the Tourmalet on stage 17 of the Tour de France.

It took me a few more years to get into the journalism side of things, but I had a good idea I wanted to get into cycling journalism by the end of year nine at school and started doing voluntary work soon after. This got me a chance to go to the London Six Days, Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain to name a few before eventually joining Eurosport's online team while I was at uni, where I studied journalism. Eurosport gave me the opportunity to work at the world championships in Harrogate back in the awful weather.

After various bar jobs, I managed to get my way into Cycling Weekly in late February of 2020 where I mostly write about racing and everything around that as it's what I specialise in but don't be surprised to see my name on other news stories.

When not writing stories for the site, I don't really switch off my cycling side as I watch every race that is televised as well as being a rider myself and a regular user of the game Pro Cycling Manager. Maybe too regular.

My bike is a well used Specialized Tarmac SL4 when out on my local roads back in West Yorkshire as well as in northern Hampshire with the hills and mountains being my preferred terrain.