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The name Laura Wilkinson might be familiar to Olympics-followers — The Woodlands native won gold in platform diving at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

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The name Loral O’Hara is less widely known — until now. The 34-year-old engineer and pilot from Sugar Land has been selected out of more than 18,000 applicants as one of 12 people in NASA’s 2017 astronaut class.

Certainly, both Houston-area residents qualify as a new breed of Wonder Women, each having overcome significant odds to attain greatness.


Wilkinson, 39, is trying to reach her fourth Olympics, hoping to come back from a triceps injury that has hampered her career. She has entered USA Diving’s zone championships, set for later this month in Georgia. If she qualifies there, she’ll go on to the national championships July 29–Aug. 12 in Columbus, Ohio.

The internationally known diver is also mom to three kids under 7 and is in the process of adopting a fourth child from Ethiopia.

For O’Hara, it’s not the first time she has applied to NASA’s astronaut program. Two previous times, she was not accepted, despite her impressive resume: She’s a research engineer with a bachelor’s in aerospace and a master’s in aeronautics and astronautics. O’Hara is also a private pilot, a certified EMT and wilderness first responder.

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“I’ve wanted to be an astronaut since I was a little kid,” O’Hara said.

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