Half of NASA’s New Astronauts Are Women
3:00 pm, June 18th | by Grace Rasmus
Today marks the 30th anniversary of Sally Ride’s historic departure into space which made her the first woman to ever enter orbit. When asked about gender differences in astronaut training, she once famously quipped, ”Weightlessness is a great equalizer.”
Ride passed away last summer but she would have been proud to know that her words are finally being observed: NASA just announced their eight new astronauts and four are women, the highest percentage of female candidates ever selected.
These women are a very impressive bunch — Christina Hammock, 34, is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Nicole Aunapu Mann, 35, is from the US Marines; Jessica Meir PhD, 35, is a professor at Harvard University; and Anne McClain, 34, is former helicopter pilot and will be the first female fighter pilot in almost 20 years.
The eight candidates were chosen from 6,000 applicants, the AP reported, which is the second highest number of applicants ever received. Charles Bolden, a NASA administrator, said these new candidates would help lead the first human mission to an asteroid in the 2020s and Mars, sometime the following decade. They also may be among the first to fly to the space station aboard the commercial spacecraft launched from the U.S., he noted.
“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,” Bolden said in a statement.
In 2012, Ride talked to the Harvard Business Review about being a role model for young women. Unsurprisingly, she shared some wise words that apply to any career path:
I never went into physics or the astronaut corps to become a role model. But after my first flight, it became clear that I was one. And I began to understand the importance of that to people. Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs some day. You can’t be what you can’t see.
The eight new astronauts will join the fourty-nine astronauts already with NASA and will report for duty in Houston this August.