NASA is taking applications for the next round of astronauts from now until February, and everyone qualified should apply. But let's have a special shoutout for anyone who doesn't identify as a dude, shall we? Let's put some ladies (and non-gender-binary conforming people, while we're at it) into space!
I'm what you could call barely qualified for NASA's astronaut training program. I have the right academic background and just enough schoolin' to submit an application. I won't make it: NASA does look for science educators when they round up potential astronauts, but they're much more likely to select people with engineering or military backgrounds, followed by folks who've done much more interesting scientific work than I have. Sure, I can run basic lab experiments with the best of them — which is a big part of an astronaut's day-to-day job while living on the International Space Station — but since I barely even maintain a driver's license: One might make a valid argument against allowing me to contribute to even the most basic operation of a $150 billion, internationally-owned piece of spacecraft.
But I'm applying anyway, because NASA needs a new generation of folks willing to go out to the black (and because I have a pretty good track record of getting by on sheer moxie). Once the selection process and training for this round are all said and done, we'll be gearing up for some pretty exciting missions, including our first crewed mission to Mars.
Here's some food for thought: NPR's Skunk Bear created a video showing just how male-dominated NASA's astronaut training program has been historically.
This isn't to say that progress hasn't been made. In 2013 (the last time NASA went looking for new astronauts) the incoming class wound up being 50/50, which is definitely a better gender ratio than most scientific endeavors have these days. But let's not let that be a fluke.
Studies have shown that women are more likely to discount their own abilities than men are, and an internal review by Hewlett-Packard once found that men were willing to apply for promotions if they met just 60 percent of the listed qualifications for the new gig - while women held back unless they could check off 100 percent of the same boxes.
If you're a female scientist or science teacher, don't let your lack of experience behind the controls of a fighter jet stop you from applying. Yes, it's true that we're bound to get beaten by folks who have science and military experience. And I already know of several other scientists applying for the program (both male and female) who should definitely have an edge on me.
But as long as you can answer both of these questions with a yes, you're all systems go to submit an application: Do you want to go to space? Do you meet the basic requirements?