Heroes

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.

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

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."

Courtesy of Creative Commons
True

After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

Keep Reading Show less
via Pexels

A new Gallup poll found a significant increase in the number of Americans who identify as LGBT since the last time it conducted a similar poll in 2017.

The poll found that 5.6% of U.S. adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. That's a large increase from the 2017 poll that had the number at 4.5%.

"More than half of LGBT adults (54.6%) identify as bisexual. About a quarter (24.5%) say they are gay, with 11.7% identifying as lesbian and 11.3% as transgender. An additional 3.3% volunteer another non-heterosexual preference or term to describe their sexual orientation, such as queer or same-gender-loving," the poll says.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of Creative Commons
True

After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

Keep Reading Show less

As the nation helplessly watches our highest halls of government toss justice to the wind, a 2nd grader has given us someplace to channel our frustrations. In a hilarious video rant, a youngster named Taylor shared a story that has folks ready to go to the mat for her and her beloved, pink, perfect attendance pencil.

Keep Reading Show less
via wakaflockafloccar / TikTok

It's amazing to consider just how quickly the world has changed over the past 11 months. If you were to have told someone in February 2020 that the entire country would be on some form of lockdown, nearly everyone would be wearing a mask, and half a million people were going to die due to a virus, no one would have believed you.

Yet, here we are.

PPE masks were the last thing on Leah Holland of Georgetown, Kentucky's mind on March 4, 2020, when she got a tattoo inspired by the words of a close friend.

Keep Reading Show less