Last week, NASA received a record number of applications for their 2017 class of astronauts. More than 18,300 applicants will compete to fill between eight and 14 available spots in the elite program. With the possibility of a Mars mission on the somewhat distant horizon of the 2030s, aspiring astronauts have ample cause for excitement. However, the reality is that human space travel has been on the decline in recent years. In fact, to date, not a single person born after 1980 has ever been to space.
I used d3.js to create this interactive data visualization comprising everyone who has been to space (according to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale definition of space travel). By sorting astronauts by their birth years, this graphic looks primarily at individuals, as opposed to their respective missions. I was able to draw a few interesting conclusions from my work on this project, but foremost among them is that the gender gap in space travel remains formidable. I am eager to see that gap close by the time we reach Mars.
Sources: William Harwood; NASA (including NASA: International Space Station, NASA: Space Shuttle Launches, NASA: Astronaut Biographies, and NASA: Information Summaries: Astronaut Fact Book
Graphic by Amanda Montañez