NASA today announced a new class of astronaut candidates, reportedly whittled down from a pool of over 6,100 applicants, makes history by including four women—half the class of eight total candidates (a new record for the space agency). Thus far, in the history of space travel (which in its early days tapped top military pilots, primarily men, for the job), women have comprised only ten percent of space travelers. That is about to change with candidates Christina Hammock, Nicole Aunapu Mann, Anne McClain and Jessica Meir set to begin their training with male classmates Josh Cassada, Victor Glover, Tyler Hague, Andrew Morgan in August at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. After their training, possible missions will take place anywhere from low (Earth) orbit to Mars.
To qualify for NASA’s astronaut training program, candidates must demonstrate superior academic, physical, and operational strength and aptitude. NASA’s astronaut training program is one of the most rigorous a human being can undergo. Astronauts are trained to handle both “internal events,” those related to technical and manual operation of the spacecraft and successful completion of its missions, and “external events” which relate to overall survival in the environment of space.
History of Women in Space
Sunday June 16 marked the 50-year anniversary of the first female launch into space. Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova blasted into orbit aboard the Vostok 6 capsule 50 years ago Sunday, spending three days in orbit strapped to her ejection seat inside the cramped capsule. Tereshkova ran biomedical experiments while learning to live and work without gravity. To return to Earth, she was required to operate manual controls to hold Vostok steady while firing the rocket engine to slow the capsule and begin her long fall through the atmosphere, according to this article by ScienceWorldReport.com.
Following her into space 20 years later, Sally Ride became the first American woman astronaut. Since then, more than 40 women have flown to orbit as NASA astronauts,according to Space.com.
Now, as NASA makes history with a record number of new space “cadets,” that number will increase by four more–if new candidates Christina Hammock, Nicole Aunapu Mann, Anne McClain and Jessica Meir complete their training and make the grade for blast-off.
Mars Needs Women?
According to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a news release earlier today, planned missions to go farther into space than ever before drew the new candidates to the space program. “These new space explorers asked to join NASA because they know we’re doing big, bold things here,” he said. “They’re excited about the science we’re doing in the International Space Station and our plan to launch from U.S. soil to there on spacecraft build by American companies. And they’re ready to help lead the first human mission to an asteroid and then on to Mars.”
No official word as to Mars needing more women. Just NASA making history (or perhaps we should say, herstory?) with its record number of new women space cadets. It will be exciting to watch these women forge the way for a greater balance between masculine and feminine participants in NASA space missions.
Written by Cybelle Clements