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NASA selects longtime Alaskan as astronaut candidate

Robb Kulin was selected by NASA to be in the 2017 astronaut candidate class. (NASA)

Robb Kulin, born and raised in Anchorage, will join NASA's 2017 class of astronaut candidates, the agency announced Wednesday.

He and 11 other astronaut candidates were selected from more than 18,300 applications — a record number, NASA says. The candidates will train for two years before being considered for space missions.

Kulin, 33, graduated from Anchorage's Service High School in 2001 and attended the University of Denver, where he earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.

Kulin also earned a master's degree in materials science and a doctorate in engineering, both from the University of California San Diego.

He was at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center on Wednesday in Houston, where Vice President Mike Pence gave a congratulatory speech to the candidates.

"You have joined the elites. You are the best of us. You carry on your shoulders the hopes and dreams of the American people," Pence said.

When selected this month, Kulin was the senior manager for flight reliability at SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, where he had been working since 2011, NASA said in his official biography.

Kulin has worked as an ice driller in Antarctica and a commercial fisherman in Chignik, his NASA biography says. He's also a private pilot. He is the youngest of three siblings, and his parents, Stephen and Karen Kulin, still live in Anchorage.

In August, Kulin will join the other candidates to begin training. Once that is complete, he'll be assigned duties in the Astronaut Office while awaiting a flight assignment, according to NASA.

The astronaut candidates could be assigned to do research on the International Space Station or fly missions on NASA's Orion spacecraft or spacecraft built by commercial companies, NASA said.