The National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA) has announced the names of their eight new astronaut candidates. Four are women. The announcement of their selection marks, almost to the day, the 30th anniversary of Sally Ride’s launch into space. Sally Ride, the first woman to make it into space, died in 2012. The 2013 class is the first in four years.
The female recruits are: Jessica U. Meir Ph.D. 35, an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. Christina M. Hammock, 34, a graduate of North Carolina State University, and NOAA Station Chief; Anne C. McClain, 34, a helicopter pilot and Major in the United States Army; and Nicole A. Mann, 35, a United States Marine Corps Major from California. Mann is also the first female fighter pilot selected by NASA in more than 20 years. The eight candidates were chosen from more than 6,000 applicants. They will begin their training in August at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The class of eight can look forward to two years of training. They will need to complete Robotics and SCUBA skills training, Russian language training and fly in a jet craft using maneuvers that simulate weightlessness. The astronaut candidates are hoping to take part in some of NASA’s most ambitious plans to date. Charles Bolden, a NASA administrator, says the agency plans to launch the first human mission to an Asteroid in the 2020’s and, later, to Mars.
That half the new astronauts are women is significant. A higher percentage of women has never been selected. To date fewer than 60 of the more than 500 people who have made it into space are women. Of the 49 astronauts currently in Houston, just 12 are women.
The selection process was obviously very competitive. The rate of acceptance for the current astronaut class is 0013%. In responding to comments about the high percentage of women chosen, Bolden highlighted their education and experience. Gender, he said, was not a factor. Good job and congratulations, ladies and gentlemen.