For the first time, NASA’s latest class of astronauts is 50 percent female. And, NASA has announced, in 15 years they could all be selected for an inaugural trip to Mars.
The shortest route to Mars is 35 million miles, and getting there will take six to nine months. But with evidence for actual flowing water found by rovers on Mars, the journey has huge scientific ramifications. “Mars can teach us so much about the past, present, and future of our own planet, ” says astronaut Dr Jessica Meir. To become astronauts, Meir and her compatriots were selected from a pool of over 6, 000 candidates and endured two years of training consisting of flying T-38 supersonic jets, mastering tasks under 40 feet of water, and surviving a plane ride known as the “vomit comet” that induces weightlessness by freefalling.
Three of the four female astronauts who could go to Mars are married, and two are mothers. The hardest part of a Mars trip, according to them, would be being separated from their planet and families for so long. But the job does come with some perks, including a unique perspective. “From space, ” says astronaut Anne McClain, “you can’t see borders. What you see is this lonely planet. Here we all are on it, so angry at one another. I wish more people could step back and see how small Earth is, and how reliant we are on one another.”