4 women at NASA are currently training to become the first to walk on Mars.

NASA's class of 2013 might just have what it takes to visit the red planet and make history.

Astronauts are dreamers.

Astronauts look up to the stars and say, "I want to go there." Not metaphorically either, like a grandparent or graduation speaker might imply. They literally want to go up there and look around. Luckily for those dreamers, if they work hard enough they actually can do it.

But let's be clear. It's hard to be an astronaut. Really hard.


You think just anyone gets to carry around that lunchbox? Think again. Photo by Shamil Zhumatov/AFP/Getty Images.

A particular combination of skill, education, experience, and "The Right Stuff" is what's necessary to go to space.

In 2013, eight people became NASA's newest class of astronauts. For the first time, half of them are women.

Nicknamed "the Eight Balls" (let's not think too much about how a team with four men and four women came up with that name), the 2013 class represents the future of NASA and space travel for more than one reason.

NASA's Class of 2013. Top from left: Jessica Meir, Josh Cassada, Victor Glover, Andrew Morgan, and Christina Hammock. Bottom from left: Anne McClain, Tyler Hague, and Nicole Aunapu Mann. Photo from NASA/Wikimedia Commons

First, the class represents what you might call a "giant leap" for women in space.

Although women have been going to space since 1963, there has never been a class of NASA astronauts with a 1:1 male-to-female ratio. It's indicative not only of an evolving administration that seeks to find more gender diversity each year, but also the rising number of women in science, a field that is still largely male-dominated.

Second, members of the Eight Balls might be among those selected to go to Mars.

That's right. We're going to Mars! Eventually. It'll take at least 15 years before NASA is even ready to hit the big red launch button (they do have a big red launch button, right?), but when the class of 2013 was selected, NASA announced that they'd be among those in the running for the inaugural trip to the red planet.

Understandably, the Eight Balls are pretty excited.

"I grew up in Spokane, Washington, and I can't recall ever not wanting to be an astronaut," astronaut Anne McClain told Glamour Magazine.

McClain, like her colleagues, was chosen from 6,100 other qualified applicants. She's flown attack helicopters on the front lines of Iraq and has master's degrees in both international security and aerospace engineering (just in case you were wondering what the competition is like).

Astronaut Anne McClain in front of her attack helicopter. I don't know which is more badass. Photo via NASA/Youtube.

Rounding out the other women in the class are Nicole Aunapu Mann, who served multiple tours in Iraq flying fighter jets with the Marine Corps; Christina Hammock Koch, who spent a year in the south pole supercooling telescopes with 10,000 gallons of liquid helium; and Jessica Meir, who has a Ph.D. in marine biology and experience diving under several feet of ice in Antarctica.

15 or so years from now, these women could be among the first human beings to set foot on Mars.

Despite the fact that women have been going to space for over 50 years, there are still people who question the skills and abilities of women who dream of going to space. It wasn't that long ago that Russia's female astronauts were questioned about their makeup before an eight-day stay in a mock spacecraft to prepare for a moon mission.

Make no mistake, these women aren't any less skilled or prepared than their male counterparts just because they're women. These women are highly trained. They've got The Stuff. They've got What It Takes.

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

Indeed, a successful trip to Mars would probably afford human beings the most bragging rights we've had since we came down from trees, stood up on our hind legs, and invented the slap-chop.

Besides, as McClain points out, when it comes to venturing into the great reaches of outer space, "We're all just part of team human."

Heroes
Facebook / Mikhail Galin

Putting your pet in cargo during a flight isn't always safe. In 2016, the Department of Transportation reported a total of 26 pet deaths and 22 injuries on flights. Because conditions in cargo can be uncomfortable for animals, the Humane Society recommends taking your pet aboard when you fly, or just leaving it at home.

It's not surprising that one Russian man didn't want to put his overweight cat in cargo during an eight-hour flight from Moscow to Vladivostok. What is surprising is the great lengths he took to fly with his four-legged friend.

Russian airline Aeroflot allows pets to fly inside the plane's cabin, as long as the cat weighs under 17.6 pounds and stays in its carrier during the flight. When Mikhail Galin went to check in, he was told he couldn't fly with his four-year old cat, Viktor. Viktor weighed in at 22 pounds and would have to be relegated to cargo.

But Viktor was sick from their earlier flight from Riga, Latvia to Moscow. And besides, Viktor had been allowed to fly inside the cabin during that flight. The airline staff didn't even bother to make Viktor sit on the scales. Galin was unable to persuade staff to bring his fur baby on board.

"To all attempts to explain that the cat won't survive there on an 8-hour flight with the baggage and would haunt her in her nightmares for the rest of her life, she (the Aeroflot staff member) replied that there are rules," Galin wrote in a Facebook post translated from Russian.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Photo by Kelvin Octa from Pexels

Newborn babies don't seem to do much beyond eating and pooping and, of course, hiccupping. A lot. Parenting advice on how to cure a baby's hiccups runs the whole gamut. It's recommended parents try everything from nursing to stop feeding the baby so much, from giving the baby gripe water to letting the hiccups play their course. But when your baby hiccups too much, you shouldn't freak out. There's a good reason why.

A new study published in Clinical Neurophysiology found that hiccups play an important role in a baby's development. Researchers from the University College London found 217 babies for their study, but only looked at 13 newborns with persistent hiccups. Ten of those babies hiccupped when they were awake, and three hiccupped during their "wriggly" sleep. We have no idea how the scientists got any work done with all that cuteness lying around.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube

Actress Kristen Bell and "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon showed off their vocal and comedic chops on Tuesday night when the performed a medley of 17 Disney songs, spanning nine decades, in just five minutes.

The duo started with 1940's "When You Wish Upon a Star" and ended with 2013's "Let it Go" from "Frozen."

Bell will reprise her role as Anna in Disney's upcoming "Frozen 2."

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Ask almost any woman about a time a man said or did something sexually inappropriate to them, and she'll have a story or four to tell. According to a survey NPR published last year, 81% of women report having experienced sexual harassment, with verbal harassment being the most common. (By contrast, 43% of men report being sexually harassed. Naturally harassment toward anyone of any sex or gender is not okay, but women have been putting up with this ish unchecked for centuries.)

One form of verbal sexual harassment is the all too common sexist or sexual "joke." Ha ha ha, I'm going to say something explicit or demeaning about you and then we can all laugh about how hilarious it is. And I'll probably get away with it because you'll be too embarrassed to say anything, and if you do you'll be accused of being overly sensitive. Ha! Won't that be a hoot?

Keep Reading Show less
popular