Half of the Latest Class of NASA Astronauts Is Women—and They Could Be Heading to Mars

This is the first time that's ever happened, and it is major.

Male and female NASA astronauts
(Image credit: NASA)

For the first time ever, the latest class of NASA astronauts is half female. And the coolest part about it? They could be on the first team to go to Mars in 15 years. 

NASA only inducts new classes every four or five years and Nicole Aunapu Mann, 38, Anne McClain, 36, Jessica Meir, 38, and Christina Hammock Koch, 37, were chosen for the 2013 class from a pool of more than 6,000 candidates after a testing process that lasted about a year and a half, according to Glamour.

The women in the new group, who have all flown combat missions in the military, talked to the outlet about the possibility of the historic mission ahead of them. 

"I can't recall ever not wanting to be an astronaut," McClain said. "I learned a lot [serving 15 months] in Iraq, flying attack helicopters at the front of the front lines. I joined the Army out of a deep sense of duty, but wanting to be an astronaut feels more like my destiny. With so much conflict in the world, space exploration can be a beacon of hope."

If they're chosen for the Mars trip, they'll travel 35 million miles. Just getting to the planet will take up to nine months, so they'll be gone for two or three years.

"If I get tapped for the mission, I'll talk to my son about what I'll be doing," said Mann, who is one of the two moms in the group. "He's almost four now but will be a teen or in his twenties by then. His life will change while I'm gone. And that's a big sacrifice."

Follow Marie Claire on Instagram for the latest celeb news, pretty pics, funny stuff, and an insider POV.

Kate Storey

Kate Storey is a contributing editor at Marie Claire and writer-at-large at Esquire magazine, where she covers culture and politics. Kate's writing has appeared in ELLE, Harper's BAZAAR, Town & Country, and Cosmopolitan, and her first book comes out in summer 2023.