Sandra Magnus

Now:  Executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics; former astronaut.

Then: Women’s soccer player and physics student at Missouri S&T; 1986 graduate.

Additional education: Master’s degree in electrical engineering, Missouri S&T; Doctorate in materials science and engineering, Georgia Tech.

How sports helped land her in space: “You learn to work as part of a team. You gain an understanding of how leadership dynamics work. And you learn to gracefully handle mistakes; you figure out how to recover and go on because you know your team is still counting on you.”

Read more about Magnus here.

Nichole Mann

Nicole Mann

Now: Astronaut

Then: Women’s soccer player and mechanical engineering student at U.S. Naval Academy; 1999 graduate.

Additional education: Master’s degree in mechanical engineering, Stanford.                  

How sports helped land her in space: “It teaches you mental toughness that I don’t think you can get anywhere else. I played soccer, and that was my team and a big focus of my life. Now, I play for a different team — NASA.”

Read more about Mann here.

Steven L. Smith

Now: Retired astronaut.

Then: Water polo player and electrical engineering student at Stanford; 1981 graduate.

Additional education: Master’s degree in electrical engineering and MBA, Stanford.

How sports helped land him in space: “By competing in college sports at a national level, you will learn and fine-tune many of life’s important skills: the ability to make decisions quickly under pressure; how to communicate well when under pressure in a dynamic situation; how to work as a member of a team, both as a follower and as a leader; how to balance huge workloads and time constraints, and so on. All of the skills that sports taught me helped get me selected to be an astronaut.”

Read more about Smith here.

Capt. Wilmore before a 2014 mission to the International Space Station. Pavel Golovkin / AP Photo

Barry “Butch” Wilmore

Now: Astronaut.

Then: Football player and electrical engineering student at Tennessee Tech; 1985 graduate.

Additional education: Master’s degree in electrical engineering, Tennessee Tech; Master’s degree in aviation systems, Tennessee.

How sports helped land him in space: “The rigor of playing college football, the physical demand, along with the mental demands of the classroom, I wouldn't change it. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I wouldn’t change it for anything, because it’s the foundation for everything else that’s happened in my life.”

Read more about Wilmore here.