Two Academy graduates land astronaut slots

Dr. Kjell Lindgren trains inside a mockup of the Mir space station in October 2008. Dr. Lindgren, an aerospace physician and 1995 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., was one of two Academy alumni selected for NASA's 2009 astronaut candidate class. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Dr. Kjell Lindgren trains inside a mockup of the Mir space station in October 2008. Dr. Lindgren, an aerospace physician and 1995 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., was one of two Academy alumni selected for NASA's 2009 astronaut candidate class. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. Jack Fischer poses in front of an F-22A Raptor at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Major Fischer, a 1996 Air Force Academy graduate, was one of nine new astronauts selected for NASA's 2009 astronaut candidate class. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. Jack Fischer poses in front of an F-22A Raptor at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Major Fischer, a 1996 Air Force Academy graduate, was one of nine new astronauts selected for NASA's 2009 astronaut candidate class. (U.S. Air Force photo)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Out of the nine newest members of NASA's 2009 Astronaut Candidate Class, two are Academy graduates. They are also the only service academy graduates out of the five military candidates chosen by NASA. 

Maj. Jack Fischer, Class of 1996 and test pilot, and Kjell Lindgren, M.D., Class of 1995 and aerospace physician, will join classmates from the United States, Japan and Canada late next month as they begin training at Johnson Space Center in Houston. 

Space exploration has been a long-time dream for both. 

"I wanted to be an astronaut since I was six years old," Major Fischer said and added the Academy was a perfect fit for him to try and make his dream a reality. 

"As a top-rated school in astronautics and recognized gateway for flying the coolest jets in the world, it was really the only choice for me," he said. 

While still on the Hill, Dr. Lindgren, and Wings of Blue member, incorporated space flight into class projects and, with a colleague, set up a NASA display in Cadet Squadron 24. During 100's night, two fourth-degrees painted a space mural on the dorm wall which stayed up for the rest of the year. 

Major Fischer is also a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He flew the F-15E Strike Eagle operationally before attending the test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Among aircraft he tested was the F-22 Raptor. 

Dr. Lindgren also holds a master's degree in cardiovascular physiology from Colorado State University, a medical degree from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and an additional master's degree in public health from the University of Texas Medical Branch. He has served as clinical assistant professor and physician in the UTMB Division of Clinical Preventive Medicine and the Department of Family Medicine. 

Selection for the astronaut program came as a surprise -- a very pleasant surprise. Major Fischer called it "complete disbelief." He celebrated the announcement with family cheers. 

"It was a little overwhelming," Dr. Lindgren said. "It was an honor just to be considered." He also celebrated the selection with his family. 

Both astronaut candidates are impressed with their future classmates. 

"I am honored to be counted among such an amazing group of folks," Dr. Lindgren said. 

"I'm absolutely humbled to be considered among them," Major Fischer said. "They are some of the best and brightest from around the world, and I'm eager to learn from them."

Major Fischer seriously considered dropping out of the Academy and running the family business after his father passed away during his third-degree year. 

"In our last conversation, Dad laughed at that notion and told me, 'I dare you to dream,'" he said. 

He has advice for the Class of 2013 now in basic cadet training. 

"To say that I knew I'd be here some day is a ridiculous notion. You never know what the world has in store for you or where it will take you, but you still have a vote," he said. "By daring to plant a stake in the ground, and dream something grand and by working your absolute hardest at everything you do, some day you might find yourself with an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than yourself." 

Dr. Lindgren also has a wealth of advice for the new class. 

"First, never give up! I have vivid memories of basic training and my fourth-class year. In the depths of these trying experiences you may wonder if it is worth it," he said. "It is!" 

"Second, be enthusiastic! You are the master of your attitude. Whatever the situation, there is something to be learned, and it will go a little easier, and you will learn a little more if you have a good attitude," he added. 

He also urges new cadets to allow themselves some enjoyment during their time at the Academy. 

"I was halfway through my second year before I realized how beautiful the campus is and how truly amazing the opportunities were," he said.