6. Anne McClain.

As a child, Anne C. McClain dreamed of becoming an astronaut. She was selected by NASA in 2013 and was space-qualified in July 2015. She launched into low earth orbit for the first time Dec 3, 2018 to serve aboard the International Space Station as a flight engineer for Expeditions 58 and 59.

In terms of credentials, Ace Carroway can’t even compare to this Spokane, Washington native. Lt. Col. McClain has an amazing resume. She’s in good company; astronauts tend to be the cream of the crop, but listen to this:

Graduated from Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane, Washington, in 1997. Earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical/Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2002. A 2002 Marshall Scholar, earned a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Bath in Bath, England in 2004. Earned a Master of Science in International Relations from the University of Bristol in Bristol, England in 2005.

Commissioned as an Army officer in 2002 and immediately attended graduate school. Her studies at the University of Bath focused on the unsteady aerodynamics and flow visualization of free-to-roll nonslender delta wings and her research was later published through the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). She concurrently researched the security burden in developing countries at nearby University of Bristol. Following graduate school, McClain earned her wings as an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout/attack helicopter pilot. She began her operational flying career with 2nd Battalion, 6th Cavalry Regiment at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii as an Air Traffic Control Platoon Leader, Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Platoon Leader, then later Detachment Commander. She served 15 months in Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying more than 800 combat hours on 216 combat missions as pilot-in-command and Air Mission Commander. In 2009, she attended the Aviation Captain’s Career Course and was then assigned to 1st Battalion, 14th Aviation Regiment at Fort Rucker as the battalion operations officer and OH-58D instructor. In May 2010, she was appointed Commander of C Troop, 1st Battalion, 14th Aviation Regiment, responsible for the Army’s initial entry training, instructor pilot training, and maintenance test pilot training in the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. She completed Command and General Staff College and the C-12 fixed wing multiengine qualification courses in 2011 and 2012. She then attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, graduating with Class 143 in June 2013 at the same time she was selected as a NASA astronaut candidate.

Major McClain is a Senior Army Aviator and has logged more than 2,000 flight hours in 20 different rotary and fixed-wing aircraft. She is a rated pilot and instructor pilot in the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and a rated pilot in the C-12 Huron (King Air), UH-60 Blackhawk, and UH-72 Lakota.

Awarded a Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal with Valor, two Air Medals, two Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals, the Iraqi Campaign Medal with two Service Stars, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and three Overseas Service Ribbons. Medals include the Combat Action Badge, Senior Aviator Badge, and Air Assault Badge. Distinguished Honor Graduate of the Army’s Command and General Staff College ILE (2011). Distinguished Honor Graduate from the Army’s Captains Career Course (2009). Distinguished Honor Graduate of the Army’s Initial Entry Rotary Wing School (2006). Graduated with distinction from the University of Bristol (2005). Marshall Scholarship (2002). Dennis Hart Mahan Memorial Award for excellence in Aeronautical Engineering (2002). National Fastpitch Coaching Association All-American Scholar-Athlete (1999 to 2002). USA Rugby Women’s National Team (2004 to 2006, and 2010 to 2012). Captain of USA Rugby South Women’s XV All-Stars (2009 to 2011).

Well, all right, rugby is more Gooper’s thing than Ace’s but I think the general flavor is clear; this is an exemplary individual. Aboard the ISS, she will help perform about 250 experiments that exploit the zero-g environment to learn more about the physical and biological sciences. And, lest it be forgot, she strapped herself onto a pile of explosives and blasted into space.

Hats off to Lt. Col. Anne McClain.

Top image: Anne McClain boarding the Soyuz-FG rocket that would shortly carry her to orbit, waving. Dec 3, 2018, Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazahkstan (Shamil Zhumatov / AP).

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