Astronaut Candidate Deniz Burnham, of ASCAN Class of 2021, poses for an official photo on Dec. 3, 2021. (Robert Markowitz / NASA)

Astronaut Candidate Deniz Burnham, of ASCAN Class of 2021, poses for an official photo on Dec. 3, 2021. (Robert Markowitz / NASA)

‘Find a passion and stay the course’: Burnham joins newest group of astronauts

From the Last Frontier to the Final Frontier.

For many, a lifelong dream could be something like creating beautiful art or traveling the wide world; for others, it’s sitting atop a rocket as carries them aloft into the ever-sprawling space that surrounds our tiny blue world.

Navy Lt. Deniz Burnham falls into the latter, which is fortunate, given her recent selection by NASA as one of the new class of 10 astronaut candidates to be part of NASA Astronaut Group 23 in January.

“I’m still a bit shocked. I’m so honored to be joining this team,” said Burnham in an interview. “It was a childhood dream to be part of NASA.”

[Jury trials set to ramp up with new year]

Burnham, whose dad came from Fairbanks but was herself born on a military base overseas, has spent the last 10 years in Alaska, involved in the oil industry. Burnham’s passion from space came from looking through a telescope at the planets in our solar system with her grandfather, Burnham said.

“This was not my first application. I applied three times,” Burnham said. “I always applied for the astronaut position. I’ve believed in their mission since I was a little kid.”

Burnham was one of 10 candidates selected out of 12,000 applicant, according to NASA. This isn’t Burnham’s first contact with space agency; she formerly interned at their Ames Research Center in California, according to her official NASA biography. This, along with her experience in the drilling industry and Navy Reserves all make for good experience for an astronaut, Burnham said- working in a fast-paced, mechanical-heavy environment in harsh conditions and confined living space is all going to be a useful experience for an astronaut. Burnham also got her aircraft instrument rating and was certified to fly helicopters while living in Alaska.

“I hope others can see, all the 10 candidates have different backgrounds,” Burnham said. “There’s no set path.”

Following her selection for the astronaut program, Burnham and nine other candidates from across the country will report to NASA in January to begin a two-year course of instruction in a variety of subjects from flying the T-38 Talon supersonic trainer, neutral-buoyancy operations, familiarization with operations aboard the International Space Station, and Russian-language proficiency, Burnham said.

Once the course is completed, she and the other candidates will join the roster of active astronauts, in a time when NASA is looking at operating manned missions further from Earth than it has in decades: the moon. NASA’s Artemis program is intended to return astronauts to the moon and to establish long-term, stable operations there.

“I think it’s incredible. It’s so hard to think about,” Burnham said. “NASA”s intention is to go back to stay.”

For others with an interest in working for NASA, Burnham said, passion and consistency is key. People come to the organization from all walks of life.

“Number one, even if your job is not to be an astronaut, there’s space for anyone,” Burnham said. “Find a passion and stay the course. Don’t give up.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

More in News

Donated blood is prepared for storage and eventual transport at the Blood Bank of Alaska's Juneau location. There is a statewide shortage of donated blood. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
‘National blood crisis’ presents challenges in Alaska

Donation centers contend with COVID, weather and other disruptions as they work to stock hospitals.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This picture shows recent editions of the Juneau Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Pathfinder to Point Louisa, Auke Recreation Area on Jan. 3. (Courtesy Photo / Kenneth Gill, gillfoto).
Wild Shots: Photos of Mother Nature in Alaska

Reader-submitted photos of Southeast Alaska.

In this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, and released by the agency, shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. An undersea volcano erupted in spectacular fashion near the Pacific nation of Tonga on Saturday, sending large waves crashing across the shore and people rushing to higher ground. (Japan Meteorology Agency)
Update: Tsunami advisory canceled for Southeast Alaska

It applies to Southeast from the BC border to Cape Fairweather.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a Glance for Friday, Jan. 14, 2022

Numbers come from reports from the City and Borough of Juneau Emergency… Continue reading

Courtesy photo / Juneau Raptor Center 
This golden eagle was rescued by the Juneau Raptor Center over the summer after being found weak and thin.
All the birds I’ve known: Rescue center, birdwatchers look back on 2021

The Christmas bird count was way down this year.

Most Read