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Men And Women In Space – How Space Treats Both genders?

women in space
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The presence of sexual dimorphism is a tight slap on the theory of species! While scientists to date couldn’t research the potential reasons behind the existence of sexual dimorphism in a single species, we witness both males and females, and their physiological and behavioral differences never cease to awe the experts, despite their observed similarities. But, does the same happen in outer dark space where there is the absence of gravity? Are women better suited for space, given the fact that women in space offer more advantages than their male counterparts workers? 

This article will take you on a journey through the past decades when women were kept from astronomy till the current era when programs are being conducted to encourage female astronauts in space to embark on space flights. 

Women In Space – The Era Of Sexual Discrimination 

For decades, women have been discouraged from astronomy. Based on the opinions of Margaret Weitekamp, aerospace experts were too skeptical about women in space. Adding to the fact list is the gender discrimination faced by Betty Skelton. While she had to appear for physiological and psychological tests, there were not enough space suits available for her that she could put on comfortably! Fear also played an important role in keeping women away from astronomical space travel. During the initial years of NASA’S space experiments, they were apprehensive of women in space as they were afraid that the death of women astronauts would be enough to put a finishing line to the whole innovation.

In response to the prevailing gender discrimination, Jerrie Cob who earlier qualified for the astronaut qualifying test, which was unfortunately pulled off, along with Jane Hart, approached Congress on the burning issue, but faced even more discrimination when Astronaut Glenn stated that women are better suited for household chores! 

Female Astronauts In Space – Who Was The First Female In Space?  

Amidst the rising protests against discrimination against women in space, NASA didn’t advance much in this field and continued to send ONLY MEN to spaceflights. But, when did the space program become an all-inclusive mission? Who was the first female in space? In the year of 1983, NASA approved Sally Ride for the first women-inclusive space mission. Before that, Russian astronaut, Valentina Tereshkova in the year 1963 was launched into space. 

On April 12, 1981, NASA launched its first space shuttle, Columbia which launched the pride of India, Kalpana Chawla in Space, but a disaster on 1st February 2003 shook the whole world when the spacecraft was destroyed by its crew team! 

How does Space Treat Male And Female Astronauts In Space? 

Amidst the progress of women in space gained acceleration, studies were being conducted to research how men and women react differently in space, both physiologically and psychologically. After years of perseverance and efforts, finally, in the year 2014, NASA published its first research report on the Impact of Sex and Gender on Adaptation To Space in the Journal of Women’s Health, in collaboration with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute.

While the study could not come up with strong data to prove that there are fundamental behavioral or physiological differences in males and females during spaceflight, the fact that there are subtle differences prevalent cannot be ignored once and for all! 

For example, women feel sicker during their spaceflight days, whereas men feel the same after returning to their own planet.

According to research, women are more exposed to radiation and urinary tract infections than their male counterparts. But, this shouldn’t deter women in space as studies have concluded that women are on the safe side in space as compared to men!

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Are Women Better Suited For Space? 

According to the words of Scott Kelly, vision and hearing disorders that occur in men during spaceflight are very rare in female astronauts. Additionally, men age faster than women in space, besides having a weakened immune system. Thus, questions such as, “are women better suited for space” were raised? Studies also concluded that women have various advantages over men in space! 

Women weigh much less than men, which offers an advantage in the sense that less weight translates to less fuel needed for carrying crew members into space. Women in contrast to men of equal body size require less energy and thus less food to maintain a healthy weight. Now, less food corresponds to fewer excreta, and thus overall, much energy is saved during space missions. 

Women In Space: Reproduction And Reproductive Health In Women

The menstrual cycle posed a huge problem before astronauts in the sense that sending a woman astronaut into space would need better period management systems and toilets should also be designed keeping in mind the comfort of female astronauts.

Additionally, menstrual blood takes the form of a solid substance in space which reduces the chances of water production from excretion. In general, urine is recycled to produce drinking water! But, as the period is solid it becomes impossible to recycle the blood to produce water. Apart from that, the shortage of water poses a problem to menstrual hygiene practices.

In recent years, to avoid period problems, female astronauts in space depend on contraceptive pills to stop their cycle, which also reduces the cost of tampons and other menstrual hygiene products.

Apart from menstrual problems, studies are being conducted around the fertility of women in space! As stated earlier, radiation exposure can cause fertility problems in women, but that is still not proven. Moreover, men suffer from decreased sperm count after the spaceflight but again jump back to normal. Thus, this should not cause any worry.


Though there has been a subtle difference in physiological and behavioral differences between men and women in space, the differences are not enough to arrive at a certain conclusion. 

Developments are being made constantly in our society and the need of the hour is to shift our perspective toward women. In the year 2019, on 18th October, an all-women spaceflight was conducted by NASA, which lights a hope that changes and innovations are an integral part of our evolution as a species. 

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