Womankind's giant leap: who will be the first female moonwalker?

NASA's current roster of female astronauts
NASA's current roster of female astronauts

Who will take the giant leap for womankind?

More than fifty years after the end of the Apollo program, NASA plans to return to the Moon by 2024 as a "proving ground" to test the next generation of spacecraft ahead of an eventual crewed mission to Mars.

The new program has been named Artemis after Apollo's twin-sister in Greek mythology, and the has said that the mission will see the first woman to stride the lunar surface.

So, who will she be? No one knows for sure, but it's a likely bet the candidate will be selected from among NASA's current roster of 12 female astronauts.

They're aged between 40 and 53, and are former military pilots, medical doctors and scientists who were picked from among thousands of applicants since the late 1990s.

Predicting who will join Neil Armstrong in the annals of history isn't an exact science, but several former astronauts and experts interviewed by AFP say the proximity of the deadline mean it probably won't be a new recruit.

"Now personally, I'd be okay with flying a rookie astronaut to the Moon," former astronaut Eileen Collins, who flew and commanded Space Shuttles in the 1990s and 2000s, told AFP.

"But if you have enough astronauts who have already flown, they know how they're going to react in space.

"Some go up there and they have symptoms that might interfere with their ability to do the work. But you don't know who that is."

Anne McClain, an ex-army helicopter pilot, will be in the International Space Station (ISS) until the end of June
Anne McClain, an ex-army helicopter pilot, will be in the International Space Station (ISS) until the end of June

Ken Bowersox, a senior official at NASA, agreed. "I think it will be better to send people who have had at least one flight," he told AFP.

That objective will be easier than ever before because there have never been so many women astronauts.

When NASA was first established in 1958 it only recruited from the military, which was at the time exclusively male.

All 12 moonwalkers between 1969 and 1972 were men, and it wasn't until 1983 that Sally Ride became the first American woman sent to space.

Scientists and soldiers

The four women of the 21st class of astronauts, recruited in 2013, represent a good mix of youth and experience. Currently between the ages of 40 and 41, they will all have made their first space forays between now and 2020.

Anne McClain, an ex-army helicopter pilot, will be in the International Space Station (ISS) until the end of June.

Well spoken, with a self-assured gaze and a light smile, she embodies the ineffable "right stuff" of NASA's early recruits.

Also currently in the ISS is Christina Koch, an engineer and passionate mountain climber. She will soon beat the record for the longest time a woman has been in space, at 11 months.

Also currently in the ISS is Christina Koch,who  will soon beat the record for the longest time a woman has been in space, at 11
Also currently in the ISS is Christina Koch,who will soon beat the record for the longest time a woman has been in space, at 11 months

Back in March, the pair almost conducted the first all-female space walk, but a lack of a proper fitting spacesuit meant McClain had to give her place up for her male colleague Nick Hague.

"I think Christina Koch or Anne McClain would be my two top picks," said Janet Ivey, the presenter of a children's show on space and a governor of the National Space Society.

But their two female colleagues from the same class, Jessica Meir, a marine biologist who specializes in penguins and geese, and former F/A 18 fighter pilot Nicole Mann, who flew in Iraq and Afghanistan, are also highly qualified.

They are both in the middle of their training to go to the ISS.

In a 2016 interview, all four declared themselves ready to go to Mars if the opportunity presented itself. It's hard to imagine them turning down a trip to the Moon.

Opaque process

There's no upper age limit for space. The iconic John Glenn made his last flight at the age of 77 as a US senator.

There's nothing therefore excluding the highly experienced Sunita Williams, who is preparing for her third space mission and will be 58 in 2024.

Especially since NASA has long "appreciated the leadership skills that came along with test pilots," according to Kent Romninger, the former chief of the astronaut office from 2002 to 2006.

There's nothing excluding the highly experienced Sunita Williams, who is preparing for her third space mission and will be 58 in
There's nothing excluding the highly experienced Sunita Williams, who is preparing for her third space mission and will be 58 in 2024

"Suni," as she's known, has piloted about thirty different aircraft in her military career.

Two other women, Serena Aunon-Chancellor and Kate Rubins, have also flown to recently.

The other five haven't flown since 2010 but remain on active duty.

There are five women in the 2017 batch but they have yet to complete their initial training.

They're not ruled out yet, but the calendar isn't on their side—especially since NASA tends to stick to a cycle of once their order is set, says Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former astronaut who spent 20 years with the agency.

When it comes down to the final call, though, the process "is fairly opaque," he conceded.

In Houston, the chief astronaut will be keen to build a team whose profiles will be complementary, a mix of ex-military and scientific backgrounds, and of different personalities.

The mission forsees a four-member crew, two of whom will walk the Moon. Why not have two women?


Explore further

NASA dubs 2024 Moon mission 'Artemis,' asks for $1.6 billion

© 2019 AFP

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Jun 15, 2019
who will be the first female moonwalker?


Who the natural f_uck cares?

Jun 15, 2019
Of course the proper response is 'why the fuck would it matter one way or the other??' But for some reason I wondered about this...

"The issue of sex in space is a serious one," he says. "The experiments carried out so far relate to missions planned for married couples on the future International Space Station, the successor to Mir. Scientists need to know how far sexual relations are possible without gravity."

"He cites a confidential Nasa report on a space shuttle mission in 1996. A project codenamed STS-XX was to explore sexual positions possible in a weightless atmosphere.

"Only four positions were found possible without "mechanical assistance". The other six needed a special elastic belt and inflatable tunnel, like an open-ended sleeping bag."

-It kind of looks like a hoax but I'm not so sure...

Jun 15, 2019
I'm in the camp of "who cares?" It was different when women were restricted from so many places. But women have been in space for quite a while. One was a commander on the ISS. A trip to the moon is more exciting to me than the fact that a woman might be among the people walking on the moon.

But I guess I just don't think in PC ways.

Jun 15, 2019
Will it be "Womankind's giant leap"? NO!
It wasn't "Mankind's giant leap" when a man first pointlessly and very expensively set foot on an airless barren desert so why would it be "Womankind's giant leap" when a woman first pointlessly and very expensively set foot on an airless barren desert?
Exactly what did putting a man on the Moon do for mankind or anyone else on Earth excluding the votes and popularity gained by a few politicians? Did it help reduce world poverty or help find a cure for cancer? Why couldn't all those billions of $ have been spent on other things? I say we should stop wasting money.

Jun 15, 2019
whoaboy! lottsa stupid to make fun of!

well shootsoenfoot's terror of the female, has been obvious for a long time.

i'm guessing poor toilet training left him humiliated through having to attend high school wearing diapers.


Jun 15, 2019
otto, buddy,
the ideal is?
that sex is recreational.
it's suppose to be fun...
Not a chore!
or?
you're doing it wrong...

plenty of online porn for those who bungle their relationships.

the important issue here is sexual reproduction.
the stochastic process that drives evolution.
if we fail to invent a means of biology surviving, thriving & reproducing over multiple generations in Space?

the cosmos will belong to the robots.
those artificial stupids you embrace.
while we, humanity, are stuck back here on Mama Earth with all the grace of Kilkenny cats.


Jun 15, 2019
Seriously...you have to be a suckerfish to actually believe we're sending people back to the moon by 2024. I don't know what the agenda is behind this latest push but what reputation does congress or the white house have for meeting the funding obligations for this endeavor? I don't care about parties or administrations. Remember Constellation getting cancelled? SLS is a boondoggle and the SpaceX's BFR/Starship(whatever they're calling it now) hasn't even been built yet.

I'm calling it right now. WE'RE NOT GOING TO THE MOON BY 2024.

Jun 15, 2019
oh av3a,
you do PC (Pubescent Cavil) most pusillanimously cranky.

i understand that the comicbooks you read promise you that you are the hero of your lifestory.
yet everyone treats you like the goat.
welcome to humanity.

& now you are resenting, that women, whose accomplishments qualify them for going to the Moon.
are rubbing your nose in your own crapulous.

sorry, no but high score at videogames does not qualify you for the Space Program.

staying awake in your classes & cracking open those textbooks?
are your only route to the Moon.

Jun 15, 2019
hunny & CapR
i certainly understand your anger & frustration over these ravenous consumption of the world's resources to feed the bottomless pit of the military-industrial complex.

however, as the Prophet George Orwell warned.
we, humanity, have achieved a permanent state of global warfare
the plutocratic-capitalist model is to commercialize war into a competitive venue for selling obsolete tech as the latest gotta have, gadgetry appealing to our monkey instincts.

attempts, such as this article to get women into the Space Programs are necessary if Mankind us to colonize into outer space.

in my own opinion, biology will fail away from Earth.

after the first horrifying deaths of women & children?
heroic men will drag the women kicking & screaming onto the ships & forcibly impregnate them.
it's our culture...

these heroes will afterwards party with celebrates & insisting the history books are spelling their names correctly.

we monkeys will commit every sin for fame & fortune.

Jun 15, 2019
I'm sure any of the twelve would be very qualified for the task. The only threat to the mission, however, would be that which has beset the gender for centuries. Which is, finding the right pair of shoes to wear. /sarc

Jun 15, 2019
I wonder why I torment myself reading the comments on phys.org. It's only trolls and decrepit old men, and I'm not sure which one is more pathetic. Never anything enlightening or productive...

Then I realize the bigger issue, why does phys.org even have comments at all?

Jun 15, 2019
for those who feel that i am being "unfair" to their delusions of dictating reality?

i believe it was the engineer & author Robert Heinlein?
who wrote about the early years of aeronautics.
& the competitions to achieve glory by being the first to cross an ocean in an airplane.

He wrote of men. bundling their wives & children aboard their small aircraft.
then attempting to make a trans-oceanic crossing.

of course then there was no one too hear their screams.

Now days? plenty of electronic ears for listening to them begging to be rescued.
too bad Mighty Mouse isn't available.

Of course the apologists for the Axis will explain those were not screams but cheers for who ever is the immediate "Glorius Leader"

just as believable as tweets that the protester's in England were cheering for pimp putin's whore trump.

Jun 15, 2019
why Beret, i'd have thought everybody has already been made uncomfortable with my suggestion for "why" this site accepts comments.

First, the site owners & employees get paid by their advertisers for eyeballs on the page.

secondly & the most drollish reason to encourage the trollish cultists?

this site is a front for educating students in the Mental Health & Social Sciences.

providing lots of thesis material for those student's with stronger stomachs.

Considering all the psych student's whom they have assisted to graduate?
it is hilarious to consider how many of the commentators hate those sciences.
i'd guess, fear of self-realization?
the loons can never admit their faults to themselves.

yet, they keep returning to add more evidence of their lunacy.

go figure...

in other words this site is one big cage of experimental simians.

Jun 15, 2019
Did it help reduce world poverty or help find a cure for cancer? Why couldn't all those billions of $ have been spent on other things? I say we should stop wasting money.


I'll answer only to those two questions. First as if i was someone in charge:

1°No.
2°Because you're not in position to ask.

Now as someone.

1°It gave the impression that, again, mankind was trying to reach another frontier. Of course it was another USA/URSS fight. But most people were pleased and happy people are easier to manage and more productive. Why pleased about this and not the end of poverty or findings of an AllCure? Because.....

2°....of this: What YOU would do, not everyone will. You can set an exemple, too many people WON'T follow it. You can single handly take the challenge, someone will alter your plans to profit on it while someone else will ruin your plans because it disturbs his own agenda.

Until you know better of what being human means, you'll remain confused and angry. Poor you.

Jun 15, 2019
I wonder why I torment myself reading the comments on phys.org. It's only trolls and decrepit old men, and I'm not sure which one is more pathetic. Never anything enlightening or productive...

Then I realize the bigger issue, why does phys.org even have comments at all?

LMAO.
Poor you. You should try reading your own before hitting submit.

Jun 15, 2019
Until you know better of what being human means
Edenlegaia

Would that involve wasting money that could be spent on compassionate things, like actually HELPING people? If so, then I say what you call "being human" is what I call "being inhuman" and "being an a******". If what you describe is what it means to be human then I am ashamed to be human and want to be a compassionate non-human.
you'll remain confused and angry.
Wrong; I remain clear headed and angry for (some) other people not curing a less about humanity.

Jun 15, 2019
2024?

Where is the funding that would make this fairy tale a reality?

Jun 15, 2019
The First Lady to Walk this Moon

From this hall of fame
How many ladies amongst we commentators on this phys.org
How many ladies amongst us
Are prepared to name
The first lady to walk this moon
https://3c1703fe8...rent.jpg

Jun 16, 2019
The word Womankind is meaningless. So is this article.

Jun 16, 2019
Who will be the first Muslim moonwalker!

Who will be the first "gay" moonwalker??

Oh, I can't wait to see the first Transgender Moonwalker!!!

Let's plant the Rainbow flag on the Moon!

Tolerance, Diversity and Inclusion advance into SPACE!

Jun 16, 2019
I wonder why I torment myself reading the comments on phys.org. It's only trolls and decrepit old men, and I'm not sure which one is more pathetic. Never anything enlightening or productive...

Then I realize the bigger issue, why does phys.org even have comments at all?

LMAO.
Poor you. You should try reading your own before hitting submit.
I think antigoracle is posting from some kind of mental institute, not realizing it is him that everyone is referring to, but then again ,he get's a kick from everyone stroaking his monkey brains ego, and heck.. so do we lol... definitely a win win... ;)

Jun 16, 2019
The word Womankind is meaningless. So is this article.


NASA has already passed away, Obama redeclared its Mission, he made it a "Muslim Outreach" organization.

Jun 16, 2019
The moon is old news. Been there done that.
Additionally the suggestion that extra planetary habitats must be weightless is not only wrong, it's stupid and just illustrates the one inch thoughts of those tasked with our space exploration program.

Jun 16, 2019
bart & snowflake
such a lovely couple
of testicleless vermin.

what a pair of losers.
so easily frightened by anyone who does not mirror their lunatic delusion
of their altright fairytail image.

weakling products of inbred cretins.
such useless examples of genetic failures.

expressing their hate & fear that the rest of Humanity is leaving them behind in the trash-strewn alley hiding in the stench of a trumpsterfire.

Jun 16, 2019
Would that involve wasting money that could be spent on compassionate things, like actually HELPING people? If so, then I say what you call "being human" is what I call "being inhuman"
#1 you're an idiot. #2 you seem to think treating the symptoms is curing the disease. You obviously know so little about history and the human condition, not to mention just how fragile and vulnerable this little planet really is, to even begin trying to explain it to you.

So you just go on feeding stray cats and drinking your herb tea and hating that disgusting and terrifying thing called inevitability. Sooner or later you WILL be dead and no amount of prayer or yoga will change that unavoidable FACT.
Who will be the first "gay" moonwalker??
That was Michael Jackson duh

Jun 17, 2019
Let a women go when she's earned the right via action or qualification and there are no men who are better-suited.

Jun 17, 2019
Million bucks says they won't be white or CIS...

Jun 17, 2019
The first woman on the moon is likely to be Chinese

Jun 17, 2019
rrwillsj, hate? Your comments don't make a single bit of sense, so I won't spend time trying to refute anything you say. Perhaps a bit of self-reflection on your part will be advisable.

Jun 17, 2019
what a pair of losers.
so easily frightened by anyone who does not mirror their lunatic delusion
of their altright fairytail image.
... from a compulsive neurotic who speaks in poetry all the time? The word's 'fairytale' byron. Or was that poetic license? Artistes dont use spellcheck?

Jun 17, 2019
I saw the title and knew the comments would be a cesspool.

Jun 17, 2019
MrB, so is the article.

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