Women In Space
June 22, 2013

Women In Space

NASA has selected the latest generation of astronaut candidates and 50 percent of them are women. This is the first time in the history of the space agency that so many women have been chosen for an astronaut class, according to a CNN Money report.

“These new space explorers asked to join NASA because they know we’re doing big, bold things here—developing missions to go farther into space than ever before,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.

Drawn from a pool of 6,000 applicants, the new space explorers are all in their 30’s and ready to travel to new destinations in the solar system, including an asteroid, the ISS and Mars. They will begin a two-year orientation training in mid-August at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and a flight mission to low-Earth orbit at the end.

“We have great female candidates in the pool this year. The selection is about qualifications. It has nothing to do with their genders,” said Jay Bolden, public affairs officer at NASA.

Before this class, 45 American women have been into space, including Sally Ride (first US woman astronaut), Judith Resnick (died in the Challenger disaster), and Kathryn Sullivan (first American woman to walk in space). Attending college in Houston in the late 80’s, I had the privilege to meet Kathryn Sullivan and I think that these new female astronauts have some very big shoes to fill.

The new class, as a whole, comes from a variety of backgrounds, but they will all become NASA employees. Those who have military affiliations will retain their military status and rank, while those who are not will quit their other jobs.

As we all know, NASA scuttled the space shuttle program, which ended on July 21, 2011, when mission STS-135’s Atlantis shuttle landed at Kennedy Space Center. So, how will these new astronauts get to the outer limits?

NASA now outsources launches to SpaceX, a privately held US rocket company. SpaceX, brainchild of CEO Elon Musk, will provide the spacecraft for several flight missions. Among those missions are a low-Earth orbit flight planned to happen soon, a flight in 2020 to the International Space Station, a mission to a nearby asteroid, and the first human mission to Mars sometime in the 2030s.

SpaceX has already been working with NASA for several years, flying cargo missions to the ISS and delivering satellites for commercial customers.

“The astronauts could be the first to fly to the International Space Station with a commercial flight,” Bolden said. “They are excited about the science we are doing on the International Space Station and our plan to launch from U.S. soil to there on spacecraft built by American companies. And they are ready to help lead the first human mission to an asteroid and then on to Mars.”

Image Credit: Danomyte / Shutterstock

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