Jasmin “Jaws” Moghbeli — who earned her nickname during her time as a decorated helicopter gunship pilot flying more than 150 missions in Afghanistan — has just added another major accomplishment, graduating from NASA to become the first Iranian-American astronaut. The 36-year-old immigrant says she hopes to inspire others with similar backgrounds. “I would love for everyone to be able to be inspired by everyone, but it is a little easier to be inspired by someone who looks like you or has something in common with you, so I do hope there is that influence.”
Growing up in Baldwin, New York, Moghbeli attended space camp as a teen where she first got hooked on the idea of becoming an astronaut. She would go on to graduate MIT and in 2005, she became a military pilot (a well-established path to the astronaut corps).
Initially her parents were concerned about their daughter entering the military, given her Middle Eastern background, but Monhbeli says she did not faced discrimination or any bias. “I haven’t in any way felt that changed anything about how I’m treated.” NASA classmate declares that Moghbeli is “the perfect crewmate I’d go into the void of space with.”
Referencing the close US-Russian cooperation on the International Space Station, Moghbeli says one of the reasons she loves working in space exploration is that it is something that unites all nationalities. “I think it is an area where we see diplomacy where we don’t see it in other areas. I think it has an impact.”