Breaking gender bias in space 

Zeynep, Staff Writer

Since 1961, when Yuri Gagarin became the first person to go to spacemore than 550 people have followed him. However, only a tenth of those people were women, according to The Guardian. 


Throughout history, women have always been thought to be incapable of performing jobs similar to men. This ideology was especially prevalent in NASA.  


“We can understand how capable people are despite what history says,” said sophomore Paul K. 


But, several people like DR.W. Rudolph Lovelace II, an American physician, challenged this ideology. He developed a research program that focused on women’s capabilities for spaceflight. He believed that women could be suitable for space since they were smaller for space vehicles. He tested twenty-five women, and thirteen of them passed as suitable astronauts for the Mercury Program (the first human spaceflight program of the U.S). They were smaller, had lower oxygen consumption, and had better cardiovascular health, according to The New York Times.  


Despite all these reasons, all tests were stopped. These women, who became known as the Mercury 13, went to Congress to try to continue the tests. However, at the time, the U.S. was currently in the moon race with the Soviet Union, who had already sent the first women, Valentina Tereshkova to space in 1963. Sending a woman to space was only a mere distraction for the U.S., which is why the first American woman, Sally Ride, was sent to space in 1983. 


“I find it interesting that we didn’t send a woman sooner just because of how far we have come since then,” said junior Quisitis S. 


NASA’s intentions to prevent women from becoming astronauts became especially clear in 1962. When a young girl sent a letter to President John F Kennedy to ask him what she would need to do to become an astronaut, NASA replied back by saying , We have no present plans to employ women on space fights because of the degree of scientific and flight training , and the physical characteristics that are required, according to The New York Times. 


For many, this is a nonnegligible statement of gender biasAlthough it was stated that they were looking for “flight training,” women during WWII were responsible for training pilots and towing planes for ammunition practice.  


Even when most of these women had more flight hours than men, they couldn’t receive a certificate from a test pilot school, which was a requirement for all astronauts. 


 “When it came to women, they weren’t as credited. So, the jobs that they could get were not as astronauts but behind the scenes, we weren’t recognized,” said Quisitis S. 


Other STEM related jobs, such as computer science could be subject to gender bias as well. 


 “There was a variety of different forms [of gender bias].  One is who would get promoted, there were the kinds of assignments that got assigned. In general, the men were assigned the more interesting and likely to succeed rather than women,” said computer science teacher, Kristin Holmes. 


Nonetheless, society progresses as time progresses.  


“I think that we definitely can learn from past mistakes, especially since right now this is a generation of speaking up for yourself and promoting change, “said sophomore Ashley H. 


In 2024, NASA is planning to send the next man and the first woman to the moon, on the flight called Artemis 3. The aim of this flight is to explore the South Pole of the moon, which is thought to have ice deposits, but the ultimate purpose of it is to use the moon as a proving ground to put together a future crew with a mission of going to Mars. 


Along with Artemis 3, spacesuits will be designed for all sizes, shapes and genders. Before, spacesuits were designed by men for men.  


This meant that women astronauts would wear space suits that were too large for them and were designed according to the metabolism of a different gender. As a result, female astronauts, had to compromise by padding their suitsArtemis, who is the goddess of the moon in Greek mythology, shows great symbolism with these new technological and societal advancements that’s coming with the mission, Artemis 3.  


“I think that it’s promoting the idea that females can achieve as many things as males.. I don’t know if it’s [Artemis 3] really going to get a whole bunch of females into the profession or the field, but it’s certainly going to help with the basic understanding and acceptance of both genders,” said sophomore Sarah L.  🔳