NASA has selected the eight astronauts they're sending to Mars; four women and four men who, according to NASA, "represent the full tapestry of America." Not too shabby.
Some of these eight men and women will go to Mars and land on an asteroid for the first time in the history of humankind. Through rigorous tests, NASA selected them from 6,100 candidates to plan and carry the next space missions beyond Earth orbit.
We can call them the Orion Eight, after the new spacecraft. like the Mercury Seven, the first group of American astronauts that jumpstarted the country's race to the Moon:
The Orion 8 may look a lot less rugged than Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper, and Deke Slayton, but they had to go through the same rigorous process.
The new astronauts were selected from more than 6,100 applicants about a year and a half ago. NASA then picked the top 120 candidates and got them to the "Johnson Space Center for interviews and evaluations." From those, they picked the top 49 for a second round of hard tests and evaluations. Finally, the Orion 8 were selected: four men and four women, six of them from the military. They are:
Josh A. Cassada and Victor J. Glover, both lieutenant commanders in the U.S. Navy; Tyler N. "Nick" Hague, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force; Christina M. Hammock; Nicole Aunapu Mann, a major in the U.S. Marine Corps; Anne C. McClain and Andrew R. Morgan, both majors in the U.S. Army; and Jessica U. Meir.
According to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, "they not only have the right stuff… they represent the full tapestry of America."
These next generation of explorers will be among those who plan and carry out the first human missions to an asteroid or on to Mars. Their journey begins now, and the nation will be right beside them reaching for the stars.
Some of them had been dreaming about being astronauts since they were kids. US Army major Andrew R. Morgan said that he wrote to one of the Apollo astronauts when he was a kid for a school paper:
When I was in fourth grade, we lived in San Antonio. We had to write about famous Texans, I wrote to Apollo astronaut Alan Bean, and I actually received a letter back from him. I was convinced that was my acceptance as an astronaut candidate.
It wasn't an acceptance letter, but it is now. Godspeed, Orion Eight!