Christina Hammock of Jacksonville, an alumna of N.C. State University, has been named one of eight selected to join NASAs Astronaut Class of 2013.
Many dream of becoming an astronaut, and more than 6,100 people applied this round after the job was advertised in 2011.
Ive wanted to be an astronaut for as long as I can remember, Hammock said in a phone interview Monday from her current post in American Samoa with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Her father, Dr. Ronald Hammock, a physician in Jacksonville, was especially proud, though his fatherly instincts immediately kicked in.
When she goes into space, its dangerous, he said. I want her back by 11 oclock.
Hammock, 34, said shes always been drawn to exploring the frontiers of science. Her adventure bug has taken her to jobs as far north as Barrow, Alaska, and as far south as Antarctica.
The Antarctic winter may have been the perfect training for space, suggests her father. Its cold and dark and you aint going no place, he said.
Hammock heads to Houston in August to begin two years of astronaut training, where shell learn the ins and outs of the astronaut business, including how to fly a jet and how to say Welcome to the Space Station in Russian.
Her dream of being an astronaut started to become a reality more than a decade ago during her time at NCSU. As an undergraduate, she received a scholarship from a group of retired astronauts. She recalled living off Hillsborough Street one summer while conducting research in NCSUs astrophysics department.
She was just a very energetic and lively personality, said Stephen Reynolds, her advisor in NCSUs physics department.
Hammock studied physics and electrical engineering at NCSU, earning both bachelors and masters degrees. She once built a Tesla coil, one of those high-voltage museum machines that shoot sparks and can turn on light bulbs from afar, just for fun, according to Reynolds.
Hammock is one of four women who make up half the groundbreaking astronaut class, the highest percentage on record.
Its just a testament that the playing field is becoming more level and that women are in a position now to really excel and follow their own dreams, Hammock said.
And where will she go as an astronaut?
With this astronaut class, NASA is laying the groundwork for a mission to an asteroid in the 2020s, and human missions to Mars in the 2030s, according to a video statement by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
Hammocks first destination as an astronaut is uncertain, but her passion for space exploration is not.
Im overwhelmed but also very humbled to have been selected to such an important program and one that I believe in so much, she said.