By Jesse Sarles

(CBS4) – NASA has selected a 32-year-old woman who calls Colorado home as one of 10 new astronauts as it looks ahead to the moon and Mars. The space agency on Monday introduced Nichole Ayers along with three other woman and six men during a ceremony at Ellington Field in Houston, home to Mission Control and the astronaut corps.

Nichole Ayers, 32, major, US Air Force, waves as she is introduced at the NASA's 2021 Astronaut Candidate announcement event on December 6, 2021 at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas. - NASA announced its 10 latest trainee astronauts, who include a firefighter turned Harvard professor, a former member of the national cycle team, and a pilot who led the first-ever all-woman F-22 formation in combat. The 2021 class was whittled down from a field of more than 12,000 applicants and will now report for duty in January at the Johnson Space Center in Texas, where they will undergo two years of training.

Nichole Ayers waves as she is introduced at the NASA’s 2021 astronaut candidate announcement event on Monday. (credit: THOMAS SHEA/AFP via Getty Images)

More than 12,000 applied for the coveted spots in the astronaut candidate class. The 10 selected are in their 30s and 40s, and face two years of training at the Johnson Space Center in Texas before becoming eligible for spaceflight. Training starts next month.

Ayers is a major in the U.S. Air Force and is one of the few American women who flies the F-22 Raptor. She led the first-ever all-woman F-22 formation in combat in 2019.

Nichole Ayers, 32, major, US Air Force, speaks at the NASA's 2021 Astronaut Candidate announcement event on December 6, 2021 at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas. - NASA announced its 10 latest trainee astronauts, who include a firefighter turned Harvard professor, a former member of the national cycle team, and a pilot who led the first-ever all-woman F-22 formation in combat. The 2021 class was whittled down from a field of more than 12,000 applicants and will now report for duty in January at the Johnson Space Center in Texas, where they will undergo two years of training.

Nichole Ayers speaks at the NASA’s 2021 Astronaut Candidate announcement event on Monday. (credit: THOMAS SHEA/AFP via Getty Images)

Ayers spent much of her youth in the Colorado Springs and Divide areas and graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2011.

NASA has accepted 360 people into its astronaut corps since the original Mercury Seven in 1959. The previous astronaut selection was in 2017.

With SpaceX sending astronauts to the International Space Station and other private companies launching tourists on short rides, and NASA’s Artemis moon-landing program on the horizon, “we are in the golden age right now of human spaceflight,” said NASA chief astronaut Reid Wiseman.

NASA plans to put astronauts back on the moon no earlier than 2025.

Some of the programs Ayers could be chosen for upon graduation are as follows:

– research aboard the space station
– launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies
– deep space missions to destinations including the Moon

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Jesse Sarles