Photo courtesy of NASA
At an event on June 7, NASA announced 12 new astronaut candidates, its largest astronaut class since 2000. At the announcement, candidate Loral O’Hara spoke of her participation in an early form of what is now the Tomatosphere™ program when she was in Grade 2. Planting tomato seeds from space created a strong connection to space in her at a young age and had a direct impact on where she is today.
“Those early experiences really hooked me and are part of what ignited the dream to be an astronaut”, said O’Hara, when asked what activities helped her become an astronaut. “I think a lot of our [astronaut candidate] class shares that curiosity and excitement for exploring the world and going farther than anyone has gone before.”
Since 2001, over 3 million students in Canada and the United States have participated in the award-winning Tomatosphere™ program. The program helps scientists gather data about growing tomatoes in space, while teaching students the basics of the scientific method. Each year, the research is compiled to help scientists understand some of the issues related to long-term space exploration. Tomatosphere™ is operated in Canada by Let’s Talk Science and First the Seed Foundation in the US.
O’Hara is from Houston, Texas, and grew up near NASA’s Johnson Space Centre. She is currently a Research Engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. O’Hara will report for duty with NASA in August, 2017.
Watch O’Hara speak about her experience:
To meet all of the new NASA astronaut candidates including O’Hara, visit
To learn more about Tomatosphere™ and its consortium of partners, visit