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Astronaut applicants face 2,000-to-1 odds

Image: Scott Kelly
NASA’s Scott Kelly snaps a selfie during a spacewalk at the space station. (Credit: NASA)

You think it’s hard to get into Harvard? Try making an impression when you’re among the record-high group of 18,300 people who applied to be an astronaut.

NASA says that tally is three times as high as the number who applied the last time the space agency put out the call, for the Class of 2013. And it far exceeds the previous record of 8,000 applications, set in 1978 during the buildup to the space shuttle program.

Now that the application deadline has passed, NASA’s Astronaut Selection Board will have to winnow through the pile. The space agency expects to choose somewhere between eight and 14 astronaut candidates for the Class of 2017. That means the acceptance rate will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.05 percent, compared to a 6 percent rate for Harvard.

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Women astronauts get the Glamour treatment

Image: Anne McClain
NASA astronaut Anne McClain keeps her eye on the Magic 8 Ball during zero-G training on NASA’s “vomit comet” airplane in 2014. The toy served as a mascot for the eight astronauts in the class of 2013, who were nicknamed the “8 Balls.” (Credit: NASA via @AstroAnnimal)

That’s one small step for NASA’s women astronauts, one giant leap for Glamour magazine.

Women have had a hard time getting their just deserts when it comes to human spaceflight: The “Mercury 13” were passed over in the early 1960s, and that was just the start. In 2005, a top Russian space medicine official said women were too weak to take on a trip to Mars. Just in the past year and a half, women astronauts have had to fend off questions about hair styling and makeup.

Glamour’s interview with NASA’s newest women astronauts – Nicole Aunapu Mann, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir and Christina Hammock Koch – could easily have gone off in the same direction. After all, the biggest headline on the magazine’s February cover is “Best Hair Year Yet!”

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