It’s been 36 years since the first American woman entered space. Since that first historic journey, 49 other women have left Earth. However, one place in space remains male-dominated: the moon.
The program has two phases, the first being speed and the second establishing a sustained human presence on the moon. The first phase will be accomplished with the first two astronauts landing in 2024, and the second phase is set to be completed by 2028.
As far as astronaut selection goes, there are twelve active women in the astronaut corps. All are between the ages of 40-53 and many are doctors, C.I.A. agents, scientists, and military pilots.
Here are the candidates:
First up is Selena Aunon-Chancellor, a flight surgeon and former Deputy Lead for Orion. She has only been in space once.
Second is Tracy Caldwell Dyson who has been an astronaut since 1998 and has flown twice. She has a Ph.D. in chemistry.
Jeannette Epps has worked for the C.I.A for seven years as a technical intelligence officer. She’s been an astronaut since 2009, but has not yet flown to space.
Christina Koch is an engineer and is currently preparing for her first spaceflight. She is expected to spend a year in space, which will surpass the current record for longest single spaceflight by a woman which was set by Peggy Whitson who logged 288 days in space. Koch is thought to be the first choice for the Artemis program.
Nicole Mann is an engineer and former military pilot. She has helped develop spacecraft and rockets for NASA.
Megan McArthur has served as a mission specialist for the Hubble telescope journey, and has her Ph.D. in oceanography as well as a degree in aerospace engineering.
Anne McClain is the youngest member of the astronaut corps and is an engineer, Lieutenant Colonel, and senior Army Aviator.
Jessica Meir is a private pilot with degrees in biology, marine biology, and space studies. She will go to space for the first time later this year.
Kate Rubins is a microbiologist who has studied Ebola, smallpox, and Marburg viruses. She was the first person to sequence DNA in space.
Shannon Walker is a physicist and former flight engineer who has degrees in physics and space physics.
Stephanie Wilson has completed more space trips than her fellow women colleagues and has degrees in engineering science and aerospace engineering.
Sunita Williams has flown to space twice and is preparing to conduct her third space mission.
No matter which of these women are finally chosen for the mission, their journey will be groundbreaking and inspiring for young girls everywhere. As NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “I’ve got an 11-year-old daughter and I want her to see herself as having every opportunity that I saw myself having when I was growing up. I think this could be transformational for young women all across, not just the country, but all across the world.”