59 different woman have flown into space, either as cosmonauts, astronauts, payload specialists or foreign nationals. 8 have flown in the Soviet/Russian program, 2 in the Chinese program, and 49 have flown with the United States in the NASA program.
481 different men have flown into space, in those professions and beyond them. 109 have flown in the Soviet/Russian program, 8 in the Chinese program, 266 with the United States in the NASA program. 11 male Germans have been into space, as well as 10 Japanese men, 9 Canadian men, 9 French men, 7 Italian men, and 32 men from other miscellaneous countries.
The typical woman is lighter and smaller than the typical man. On average, she does not require as much food or water as her male counterpart in order to maintain a well-balanced diet. She breathes in less oxygen, and tends to have better cardiopulmonary health.
Why is it, then, that less than 11% of space travelers are persons lacking a Y chromosome? Why is it that Sally Ride, the first U.S. female citizen to fly into space, didn’t get there till 20 years after female Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova already orbited the Earth?
Of course, the obvious reason is that American women faced more blatant and ludicrous forms of discrimination when the space industry took off in the late 1950s. Though not a negligible number of men championed their inclusion in astronautics, some of their arguments in women’s favor were innately sexist. Author Martin Caidin, for example, contended for women in the space industry in fear of an all-men crew yielding castrated and homosexual individuals. American aerospace researcher Randy Lovelace wanted women to serve subliminal positions in space as secretaries, phone operators, or nurse.
Still, more rational arguments pervaded and continue to pervade the apparent chauvinism. Science and technology, very male-dominated fields of interests, are avenues to careers in spaceflight. Additionally, women have a lower threshold for space radiation exposure than men. This means that women in space are more likely to be inflicted with some cancerous disease, largely because women consist of more bodily parts that are susceptible to cancer – breasts, a uterus, and ovaries.
That didn’t stop feminists from shooting out of the woods throughout the 1970s, demanding equal opportunities, mortified that the Russians were a model for female inclusivity in space.
Fast forward. NASA announced its newest class of astronauts in 2013. 8 total, 4 of them women. And never before have women been so largely represented in an astronaut class.
Women still face greater impediments than men while on the same pathway to a career in space. Yet as our country grows in progressivism, it declines in misogyny.
And it grows more and more progressive each day.