As part of the 2018 NCAA D3 Week, we share the story of Jasmin Moghbeli `05, who over the past year was named to the NASA Astronaut Candidate Class of 2017. Moghbeli is not just an MIT graduate from Course 16 in Aerospace Engineering, but she is also a former women's basketball team captain for the Engineers.
Moghbeli is one of 12 individuals selected for this class from a record 18,300 applicants from across the United States. She is now based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where she is in the middle of two years of training before taking her next step as she began her training on August 21, 2017. Her preparation includes training in the neutral buoyancy lab for the extravehicular activity, learning Russian, learning the International Space Station system, training in robotics, flight training and visiting various NASA bases and other international space agencies.
Playing collegiate athletics is a big part of the college experience for student-athletes at MIT as it is a break from the daily academic life and also teaches you lessons about teamwork.
"I think my involvement in athletics at MIT directly correlated both to my time in the Marine Corps and me getting selected as part of the astronaut candidate class," said Moghbeli. "I talked a lot about the teams I played on during the interview process. I played basketball and lacrosse in my time there and my senior year for basketball, I don't think we won a single conference game, but it was one of the coolest team experiences I've had. They asked me about that about teamwork and a lot of the stuff we did and a lot of the interview process was based on teamwork and how you get along with others so I think all that stuff directly carried over."
In the lives of many student-athletes and college students in general, there are times when you either know exactly what career path you want to pursue or you figure it out during your time in college. For Moghbeli, she remembers that moment that came long before she walked through the hallways of MIT.
"I knew in the sixth grade, that's when I definitively remember saying that I wanted to be an astronaut. I did a book report on Valentina Tereshkova (the first woman in space) and got to dress up in a space suit at school and I remember from that point on saying that I want to be an astronaut."
As Moghbeli continued to learn more about what went into becoming an astronaut, she attended advanced space academy and watched one of the night shuttle launches about 10 years ago.
"The more I learned about it and my involvement with military aviation also drew me closer to it so I think the more I learned, the more and more I wanted to do it," said Moghbeli.
Despite being involved in such a busy schedule at the Johnson Space Center, Moghbeli is a regular attendee at the MIT women's basketball alumni games and came back to Rockwell Cage for this year's event. When asked about what it means to come back to campus and meet the current team, she was very excited to share what that experience is like.
"I love it, it's one of my favorite things. It's always very humbling for me and going through MIT in the first place was a humbling experience, but going back and meeting the students there is great because so many are involved in so many incredible things that are so above my level. Every time I come back I meet more students that I'm absolutely amazed with. Being able to in any way form a connection with one of them that might help them in the future is a great thing and I hope I'm able to help them in the future at some point."
As a senior, Moghbeli appeared in 23 games with two starts for the women's basketball team. For her, it wasn't about what happened on the court, but it was the role that she had with the team that season that meant the most.
"I think my proudest memory in athletics at MIT was being the captain of the basketball team my senior year. It certainly wasn't based on my skill level, I'd like to think it was a sign of my leadership and I was really proud to lead the team that year. Like I said, I don't think we won a single conference game, but we had a great team that really gelled and really got together and we formed a lot of memories and we still all keep in touch."
As a student, Moghbeli enjoyed going out in Boston with her friends and attending Red Sox games at nearby Fenway Park. She also lived in Baker throughout her four years and had the same college roommate during her MIT career. While MIT challenges students, it is a challenge that most are ready for and Moghbeli shared her advice for this generation of MIT student-athletes.
"It's worth it in the end. Keep pushing through. MIT is absolutely worth every bit of it, it will challenge you to your limits. You will learn a lot, you will forget a lot of what you learned here. What you won't forget is that after having gone through MIT, every time I came upon a challenge I said if I can get through MIT, I can do this. Having that confidence in yourself will be worth it so keep pressing."
In a collegiate athletics career, the coaches and administrators form bonds with the student-athletes that sometimes last long before the four years that they are on campus together. That's no different for Moghbeli, who credits a lot of her current job and her career path to her head coach and her professors.
"A lot of my teachers and coaches had a big hand in me getting here. You only get five references when you apply for this job and one of them was Melissa Hart, my coach when I was there however many years ago. The fact that we are still close and keep in touch and I still see her just about every time I'm in town says a lot about the connection that the coaches and the students there form. They were a big part of my life and in shaping me and getting me ready for this and the team sports I played were a huge part of getting me here."