Women Are All on Board for NASA’s Highest-Risk Trip to Date

Astronauts will spend the next 15 years in increasingly uncomfortable situations to prepare for the mission.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Preparations for the first trip to Mars are well underway, and four out of eight of the astronauts selected as candidates for the journey are women. The trip is scheduled to happen 15 years from now, by which time humans may be able to visit and live on Mars. Until then, these astronauts will be practicing for the real deal, both on Earth and on neighboring asteroids.

Sheyna Gifford is already spending her year at the HI-SEAS biodome in Hawaii, using tools and games designed to help travelers cope with the isolation they’ll face while in space. Once they arrive on Mars, they’ll be welcomed to their new home, which will be built by robots.

The eight astronauts have been selected from a pool of 6,100 people, and women’s equal participation in the trip is doubly exciting; not only does it signal greater opportunities to come for women in science, but it’s cost effective, too.

The one-way, 35 million-mile journey will take six to nine months, but the entire trip could span much as three years. The journey will be difficult, high-risk and, unlike trips to the moon, it requires a considerable time commitment. If something were to go wrong, it would take 10 minutes for an SOS to reach home, and even then there would be no way to abort the mission. Still, scientists and astronauts alike are drawn by the possibilities that flowing water on Mars might promise, whether that’s the chance to meet other life forms or the option of migrating to another planet after we’ve ruined this one.

“If we go to Mars, we'll be representing our entire species in a place we've never been before,” astronaut Anne McClain said. “To me, it's the highest thing a human being can achieve.”

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