By Daphne Rasehei – Emtv Online
Pictured here: Nicole Aunapu Mann, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir, and Christina Hammock Koch, photographed at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston.
Getting accepted into NASA’s astronaut training program is no small deal.
NASA only accepts new astronaut trainees every four or five years after putting candidates through a year-and-a-half-long application process, including intensive physical and psychological tests.
Out of around 6,100 applicants for the 2013 class, NASA only selected eight to join their astronaut training program—four of whom are women.
The four women, Anne McClain (36), Christina Hammock Koch (37), Nicole Aunapu Mann (38) and Jessica Meir (38) have already flown combat missions in Iraq, braved the South Pole, and dived under think layers of ice in Antarctica. And now all they want is to finish training and anticipate their epic adventure.
“We never determine how many people of each gender we’re going to take, but these were the most qualified people of the ones that we interviewed,” NASA’s Glenn Research Center deputy director Janet Kavandi said in 2013.
While the class itself is small, they will be the first NASA astronauts being trained for the space agency’s future crewed missions to retrieve deep-space asteroids and eventually travel to Mars.
“If we go to Mars, we’ll be representing our entire species in a place we’ve never been before. To me it’s the highest thing a human being can achieve,” astronaut candidate Anne McClain tells Ginny Graves for Glamour.
The new astronauts still have a long way to go before they’ll have the chance to travel to the Red Planet. According to NASA’s roadmap, the first crewed mission to Mars isn’t scheduled for at least another 15 years while engineers develop the technology to safely transport astronauts during the nine-month-long, 25 million mile voyage to our planetary neighbour.
(Learning to spacewalk: “Getting into a space suit is like getting into a small aircraft—it’s hard work,” says McClain, here trying on a prototype.)
In the meantime, if the current astronaut trainees pass their tests, they will join the 58 other women who have ever journeyed outside of Earth’s atmosphere.
“That idea of exploration has always been a part of the human experience,” astronaut candidate Jessica Meir tells Graves. “Trying to understand our place in the universe is what drives me more than anything.”
Thirty eight years later, these women may be the first people to set foot on Mars.
Read the full story at Glamour or Check out: Could NASA cut costs by sending an all-female mission to Mars?