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Why are NASA's new astronaut candidates called the 'Eight Balls'? (+video)

NASA formally welcomed its new crop of astronaut candidates on Tuesday, along with the unusual nickname bestowed upon them by the 2009 astronaut cohort. 

NASA introduced new recruits in Houston on Wednesday. The four men and four women were chosen from an applicant pool of more than 6,000.
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The "8 Balls" have landed in NASA's center pocket.

On Tuesday (Aug. 20), eight new astronaut candidates — nicknamed the "Eight Balls" — were formally welcomed to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, where they're set to begin two years of basic training.

"For more than 50 years, from the early days of Gemini and the Apollo moon landings to the historic achievements of the 30-year space shuttle era and today's International Space Station, the Johnson Space Center has been home to America's human spaceflight program," Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator and a former astronaut, said Tuesday morning at a press conference. [Photos: NASA's 2013 Astronaut Class in Pictures]

"The new astronauts we're introducing today are critical to achieving our ambitious goals," Bolden added. "They will help us continue to lead the world in exploration, and they'll become role models for boys and girls, men and women, from all over the world. Their journey begins now and the nation, as it always has, will be right beside them reaching for the stars."

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