Women are From Mars: Closing the Gender Gap in Space
by Maria Perica
13 years ago, the beginning of February was met with horrifying news from NASA: the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentry into the atmosphere, killing all 7 crew members. This disaster is commemorated every year, but lately, NASA has shared some more cheerful news with us regarding the first manned mission to Mars. 46 years after the first man walked on the surface of the moon, NASA has started the process of selecting the first man to walk on Mars, and it looks like it may actually be a woman. For the first time ever, NASA’s latest class of astronauts is 50% female.
The gender gap in STEM is slowly closing as the predominantly male, high-level positions in biology, physics, and engineering, are increasingly including women. This exciting news hints at advancements in closing this gap in space travel. Progress in this field has been encouragingly rapid; female astronauts were not even considered as applicants in the 1960s when astronauts were applying to man the Lunar Mission.
The team has been training since 2013, and will soon join NASA’s 46 other active astronauts. The journey to Mars is about 25 million miles, which will take anywhere from six to nine months. Phase One of the mission to Mars is called Earth Reliant, and involves seeing how astronauts on the International Space Station survive without being bound to Earth. Phase Two involves the perfecting of complex operations that are needed in a deep-space environment. Only then will NASA be able to move onto phase 3, which is Earth Independent – the manned mission to Mars. NASA hopes to send these hopeful astronauts into space in about 15 years.