Gender Equality In Space: Four Of Eight New NASA Astronauts Are Women

By Laurel Morales
July 24, 2013
Jessica Meir
Anne McClain
Nicole Aunapu Mann
Christina Hammock

For the first time in the history of the United States space program, NASA has chosen an equal number of men and women astronauts. Four of the eight new NASA astronaut trainees are women.

These four women, one black man and three white men got the job out of more than 6,000 applicants, the second-largest pool of applications NASA has ever received. NASA made the announcement last month, but little has been made of it.

Out of the 534 people that have rocketed to space so far as part of the U.S. space program, only 57 of them have been women. There have been just 14 African-American astronauts.

1983 was a big year for NASA. In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space and two months later Guy Bluford became the first African American. Mae Jemison followed in 1992 as the first black female astronaut to explore space.

The Soviets sent the first man and woman into space. They actually beat the U.S. program by 20 years with the first woman. In 1963, Valentina Tereshkova completed 48 orbits and 71 hours, more hours than all American astronauts combined. Score one for the Soviets.

So you want to be an astronaut? The job application process is rigorous. Applicants had to swim three lengths of a 25 meter pool in a flight suit and tennis shoes. Each of the eight chosen out of 6,300 applicants had qualifications that set them apart.

Christina Hammock has degrees in engineering and physics and has done research in Antarctica. Jessica Meir has degrees in biology, space studies and a doctorate in marine biology and teaches at Harvard. Oh and she’s an ice diver.

This 2013 class of astronauts will be a part of the first human mission to an asteroid in the 2020s and onto Mars in the 2030s.

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