By Christy Swift
Photos Courtesy of NASA
Only the elite of the elite are selected by NASA to become astronauts, and this year one of our own has made the cut. Central Florida resident Luke Delaney is one of 10 new astronaut candidates chosen from a field of more than 12,000 applicants to represent the United States and work for humanity’s benefit in space.
The 42-year-old DeBary native has a quiet, unassuming demeanor as he talks about the incredible honor and opportunity of being chosen as an astronaut candidate. He described the selection process as less rigid than he expected, and more like “adult space camp.”
“They are looking to find the right person for the job, and at the same time you’re looking to make sure that job fits you.” When he got the phone call, he was actually expecting to find out he hadn’t been picked. “I’d met so many people with impressive resumes and backgrounds. I was ready to thank people for the opportunity and all these things.” He even asked the caller if he could get back with them so he could check with his wife one last time!
Excited to see what’s out there
While Delaney might be humble about being selected, from the outside it’s clear why he was chosen. Delaney is a retired Marine Corps major and distinguished naval aviator with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of North Florida and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He participated in exercises throughout the Asia Pacific region and conducted combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Most recently, Delaney worked as a research pilot at NASA’s Langley Research Center, in Hampton, Virginia, where he supported airborne science missions. Overall, Delaney has logged more than 3,700 flight hours on 48 models of jet, propeller, and rotary wing aircraft.
At Nasa Langley, Delaney has been working in aviation safety, traffic management, and atmospheric science—the aspect he finds most interesting. “Trying to understand better the complexities of this planet and how things are changing and how to best handle future catastrophes—I think a lot of data collection we’re looking at is mapping out different avenues for our planet, and that’s awesome, that’s great to be at the forefront of that,” Delaney says.
Going into space takes that exploratory science to the next level. “There’s different things we look at on our planet that we’re going to be looking for in space,” he adds. “Looking at the different constructs and compositions on the moon and Mars and other locations. To me, that’s exciting just to see what’s out there.”
Working for NASA, Delaney has gotten a glimpse over the proverbial bow at what’s to come for human spaceflight. “I feel almost in the last decade or so things have kind of been picking up on the space front. Potential deep space exploration, going places humans haven’t been yet—it’s exciting to think about what could be next.”