Who will make a big jump for a woman?
Over fifty years after the completion of the Apollo program, NASA plans to return to the Moon by 2024. As a "testing ground" to test the next generation of spacecraft before a possible crew on Mars.
The new program was named Artemis after the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology, and the space agency said that the mission would see the first woman who would walk on the surface of the Moon.
So who will she be? No one knows for sure, but it is likely that the candidate will be selected from among the current 12 NASA astronauts.
They are between the ages of 40 and 53 and are former military pilots, physicians and scientists who have been selected from thousands of candidates since the late 1990s.
Predicting who joins Neil Armstrong in the annals of history is not an exact science, but some former astronauts and experts AFP spoke to say that the proximity of the term means that it probably will not be a new recruit.
"Now, personally, I'd be fine if I were flying into the moon astronaut of a rookie," said former astronaut Eileen Collins, who flew and commanded space shuttle in the 90s and 2000s, he said.
"But if you have enough astronauts who are already flying, they know how they will react in space.
"Some go there and have symptoms that may interfere with their ability to work. But you do not know who it is. "
Ken Bowersox, a senior NASA official, agreed. "I think it would be better to send people who had at least one flight," said AFP.
This goal will be easier than ever before, because there have never been so many women astronauts.
When NASA was first founded in 1958, it recruited only from the army, which at that time was exclusively male.
All 12 lunar wanderers in the years 1969-1972 were men and it was not until 1983 that Sally Ride became the first American woman sent into space.
– Scientists and soldiers –
Four women from the 21st class of astronauts, recruited in 2013, They represent a good mix of youth and experience. Currently, between 40 and 41, everyone will do their first space expedition from now until 2020.
Anne McClain, a former pilot of a military helicopter, will be at the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of June.
Speaking well, with a confident look and a slight smile, he embodies the unspeakable "right things" of NASA's early recruits.
Currently, the ISS is Christina Koch, an engineer and passionate mountaineer. She will soon break the record for the longest, as a woman stays in space after 11 months.
In March, the couple almost made the first walk for women in space, but the lack of a proper space suit meant that McClain had to give her a place for his male colleague Nick Hague.
"I think Christina Koch or Anne McClain would be my two best choices," said Janet Ivey, a program presenter for children in space and the governor of the National Space Society.
But their two classmates from the same class, Jessica Meir, a marine biologist who specializes in penguins and geese and a former F / A fighter pilot 18 Nicole Mann, who flew in Iraq and Afghanistan, are also highly qualified.
They are both in training to go to the ISS.
In an interview in 2016, all four declared that they were ready to go to Mars if the opportunity arose. It is hard to imagine them rejecting a trip to the moon.
– Opaque process –
There is no upper age limit for the place. Iconic John Glenn made his last flight at the age of 77 as an American senator.
Nothing excludes the highly experienced Sunity Williams, who is preparing for his third space mission and will be 58 years old in 2024.
Especially since NASA has long been "appreciating the leadership skills that accompanied the test pilots," says Kent Romninger, former head of the astronaut office in 2002-2006.
"Suni", as you know, piloted about thirty different aircraft in his military career.
Two other women, Serena Aunon-Chancellor and Kate Rubins, have also recently flown into space.
The other five have not flown since 2010, but still serve.
There are five women in the 2017 series, but they have not yet completed their initial training.
They are not yet ruled out, but the calendar is not on their side – especially since NASA tends to stick to the astronauts cycle when their order is determined, says Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former astronaut who spent 20 years with Agency.
However, when it comes to the last conversation, the process "is quite opaque" – he admitted.
In Houston, the main astronaut will want to build a team whose profiles will be complementary, a mix of former military and scientific environments and different personalities.
The mission consists of a crew of four, two of whom will walk on the Moon. Why not have two women?
? 2019 AFP