No women on Mars.
June 6, 2001 1:16 PM   Subscribe

No women on Mars. "Women are likely to be barred from any Russian mission to Mars because they would increase the "probability of conflicts" among the crew, says a Russian space official." We've come a long way, haven't we?
posted by judith (22 comments total)
my great aunt was working on a Mars project at the time of her death - she would have been amused at this...
posted by judith at 1:19 PM on June 6, 2001

Oh, please. We all know that any woman who has enough cash will be allowed on the Russian Mars mission.
posted by smackfu at 1:26 PM on June 6, 2001

If we're banning people who cause conflicts from spaceflight, does that mean we aren't sending any men, either?
posted by Ezrael at 1:34 PM on June 6, 2001

The obvious solution, by my reckoning, would be to commission an all-female crew. Their menstrual cycles would sync, it would be a good time.
posted by donkeyschlong at 1:48 PM on June 6, 2001

Maybe they saw Mission to Mars and figured that rest of the crew would be pretty annoyed a married couple were joining the "ever increasing miles from earth" club and their only compensation was that from Mars they had a better view of Uranus .
posted by john at 1:48 PM on June 6, 2001

what happens when 7 cosmonauts move into a downtown loft and start geting real
posted by elsar at 1:57 PM on June 6, 2001

Mars... Needs... Women!
posted by 23lemurs at 2:09 PM on June 6, 2001

Good one Elsar. Of course, it would certainly put meaning into the title of Survivor:Space if they ejected the losers.

"Kimmi! open the podbay doors!"

"I'm sorry Mitchell, but Ogakor has spoken and your tribal glowstick looks mighty dim."
posted by john at 2:09 PM on June 6, 2001

And the Russian mission to Venus will have an all-female crew, right?

I'm sorry, that was so dumb, but nobody else posted it, so I had to, you know?
posted by dfowler at 2:10 PM on June 6, 2001

They should have been more clever and phrased it "same sex".. It could be all women or all men, but I'm willing to agree, sending a mix (at least on the first run) is bound to cause trouble..

Socially we've come a way, but physically, humans haven't been around long enough to evolve much.. Same monkey is calling the shots as always..

Same thing that killed all those nice hippie communes. Free love makes a great idea in a book, but when you try it, the monkey makes everyone pair bond and fucks it up..
posted by Leonard at 2:14 PM on June 6, 2001

Reply I made to an email list about this:

I think the Russians are inclined to go with men because they've had far more experience with men in orbit and as far as they can tell, they can survive long space journeys (without any major mishaps, and that's when they're not even *going* anywhere. I also think that the Russians had a problem with Valentina Tereshkova when she went up into space, although I never got around to finding out what happened with her.

There are other reasons besides the behavioural dynamics; more experience with male biology, more experience with male 'plumbing' and how it interacts with going to the toilet and so on. They probably just want to go with what they feel is the safe option.

The way things are looking, a NASA mission would probably be all male as well, considering the sex ratio of the astronauts at the moment, and the relative experience.

There is a line of argument where it's actually better to send women because they're smaller, require less food, less space, etc, which to my mind actually makes a great deal of sense.

(Incidentally, I semi-know Judith LaPierre since she's helping out with a competition I'm running for students in Canada and the UK, called Generation Mars)
posted by adrianhon at 2:23 PM on June 6, 2001

Russian Mars mission?

I think not. They can't even afford to launch their space shuttles (Buran), in fact, most, if not all of them were scrapped.

They won't be going to Mars anytime soon.
posted by tomcosgrave at 3:47 PM on June 6, 2001

adrianhon: I also think that the Russians had a problem with Valentina Tereshkova when she went up into space, although I never got around to finding out what happened with her.

According her bio at
After her flight in 1963 she received the Order of Lenin; was honoured as a Hero of the Soviet Union; and received an honorary commission in the Soviet Air Force. Although she never flew again, she became a spokeswoman for the Soviet Union. In this role she received the United Nation Gold Medal of Peace; the Simba International Women’s Movement Award; an additional Order of Lenin; and the Joliot-Curie Gold Medal.
Meanwhile Valentina became a prominent member of the Communist Party and a representative of the Soviet government to numerous international women’s organisations and events. She was a member of the World Peace Council in 1966; a member of the Yarsoslavl Supreme Soviet in 1967; a member of the council of the Union of the Supreme Soviet in 1966-1970 and 1970-1974. Valentina was elected to the presidium of the Supreme Soviet in 1974. She was the Soviet representative to the UN Conference for the International Women’s Year in Mexico City in 1975. Other honours included the rank of deputy to the Supreme Soviet; membership in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee; Vice President of the International Woman’s Democratic Federation; and President of the Soviet-Algerian Friendship Society.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party Valentina lost her standing. Little has been heard of her in recent years. She is presumably retired in Moscow.
While USA was first to send two women on the same flight, USSR was fisrt to send co-ed crew. USSR also boasts the first post flight marriage between cosmonauts when Valentina Tereshkova and Andrian Nikolayev married in November 1963. [source / more]
posted by tamim at 4:55 PM on June 6, 2001

It's really no surprise that the Russians have this attitude. (When Shannon Lucid got to Mir, the "guys" offered up the joke that now the space station would at least be clean. I'm sure it was intended as ribbing, but it does point out how male-oriented the Russian space program is and remains, even compared to the 4:1 male:female ratio that NASA has.)

Tereshkova, alas, was not chosen because she was a gutsy astronaut type. When she had some communication difficulties, the chauvinistic Soviets concluded it was her gender. (Similar things happened with male astronauts in the Mercury and Gemini programs, and killed careers. Indeed, ground-crew communication problems are really a hallmark and continuing issue with all space travel. Note the duct-tape table that Shep and ISS Crew 1 put together in secret.) The American program has always placed a premium on ground politics, how the astronauts work their careers; the Russians have, with their focus on long-term on-orbit missions, tended to focus on performance as a part of the crew.

Of course, if we use a Mars Direct plan instead of the classic Battlestar Galactica plan (big orbital ship plus lander), we'll cut mission duration in half.
posted by dhartung at 4:57 PM on June 6, 2001

Does anyone know whether, up to this date, any sex *between two people* has been had in space? Hetero or otherwise?
posted by crasspastor at 5:02 PM on June 6, 2001

They won't be going to Mars anytime soon.

My thoughs exactly tomcosgrave.
posted by lagado at 5:37 PM on June 6, 2001

No women on Mars.

He's going to be really disappointed to hear that, I think...

By the way, Mars's comment count is 666 right now. That's just plain eerie...
posted by fooljay at 7:48 PM on June 6, 2001

That's Russia. They can do that sort of thing there. Even the women still half believe there are certain jobs a woman shouldn't do.

A US flight to Mars would be led by two handsome white guys named Steve and Craig but would necessarily include two women -- a good one who is serious about Steve, and a bad one who almost causes disaster when she does something vain and silly to get back at Steve and the good girl. Craig might be gay, but no one's asking and he's not telling. There would also be one friendly black guy who would, almost sadly, be eaten by something in a Martian cave; one wiry, smiling, unthreatening Asian guy who is good at blinky computers; a wise old couple who would be happy to die as long as they die together for the good of all humankind; one "differently abled" person who, finally out of the wheelchair, is happy to stay in orbit and out of the clutches of gravity; a stowaway Mexican kid named Pepe who entertains the others with his wacky antics and breaks their hearts with his big eyes and his tales of village life; and Pepe's clever little dog Pedro, who never accidentally sends a steaming turd floating through the cabin.
posted by pracowity at 11:44 PM on June 6, 2001

Glad to see pracowity has been watching those training films Hollywood made for him. (I keep thinking about Fire Maidens from Outer Space, a movie I saw MSTed a few years back...was that its name? In it, the ship only had one control, like an old ship throttle.)

On a more serious note, we keep talking about Mars missions, but have we overcome the obstacles? Are we sure we have long-term radiation problems licked, will we be able to send enough food and water, are we clear on what the effects of weightlessness will be over the journey there and back? And for that matter, how long is the trip at this point? Forgetting for a moment the effect of mixed-gender crews, how will any crew react to being stranded together in a tin can, getting to Mars, and at every point being so distant from home in a new environment? Are we really ready, technologically and psychologically, for this trip?

I'm not saying we shouldn't do it...I'm really asking out of curiousity, because I know a few of you will know better about the science than I do.
posted by Ezrael at 2:01 AM on June 7, 2001

Long term radiation will always be a problem; the journey through space shouldn't be too bad since the spacecraft will undoubtedly have some kind of water-shielded compartment that the astronauts can retreat to if there's a solar storm. However, on Mars there's significantly more radiation reaching the surface than on Earth, due to its lack of a magnetosphere and atmosphere. That radiation can't be avoided, and it will be damaging, but not anywhere near fatal (I don't think we know that much about radiation levels on the surface yet, I believe one of the probes going there soon will be taking more readings though).

Sending enough food and water is merely a question of sending enough in advance and giving the astronauts a lot when they go there themselves - not really a problem.

The entirety of decades of research on weightlessness on humans is that: It's bad. Decalcification, loss of balance and a whole host of other problems come along with weightlessness. It can be avoided to some extent with various drugs and lots of exercise. The thing is, we don't really want our expensive astronauts to be 'wasting' their time for several hours each day running on a treadmill, which is why I think NASA and Russia should forget about weightlessness and start developing spacecraft with artificial gravity via tethers, counterweights and centripetal force.

Artificial gravity would solve all the problems of weightlessness in one go and also solve a lot of the plumbing problems on the spacecraft. Of course, there are a lot of people employed in both countries to study weightlessness so you can be sure that there's a certian amount of vested interest going on here...

BTW, we don't really know what the .38G of Martian gravity would do to the body - we'd need to create an artificial gravity environment in space to do that.

How long is the trip - about six months there, six months back (I think, I'd have to check it up).

Coping with the distance: We've done it before with the Arctic explorers who suffered far worse conditions and zero communication with back home, and we can do it again with the Martian explorers who will be relatively comfortable and in constant communication. It won't be easy, but it's not the biggest problem.
posted by adrianhon at 2:47 AM on June 7, 2001

Radiation safety is a major issue. It hasn't come up officially so far as I know, but a trip to Mars, it's suggested, would exceed OSHA safety limits by forty times. Still, the greater, more immediate health problems are bone mass loss (0.5%/month in zero-gee) and heart shrinkage (up to 10% on the short Skylab missions).

adrian, six months is a good estimate. The real problem isn't the distance out to Mars orbit; it's that we go around the sun three times for every Martian year. Without sci-fi impulse drives, that limits traveling to times when a legitimate Hohmann transfer can be set up, i.e. our rockets will have to swing out from Earth orbit with just a slight deviation outward, then choose a time to leave Mars, with a slight deviation inward from its orbit, in order to intercept the Earth. Very tricky, and the major cause of the Battlestar Galactica approach to a Mars mission, because the ship would have to carry enough fuel to get there and back. That's why the nominal mission would take three years.

Now, Mars Direct (or the NASA take on it, called Semi-Direct) involves sending an empty, unmanned Earth Return Vehicle to Mars ... before the astronauts leave Earth. By the time they get there, it's generated fuel (probably a type of hydrazine) from local resources, and the astronauts will be able to hop right on it and come back to Earth, roughly in a single pass. It's much easier to plan for a six-week lander mission than an eighteen-month one, and nobody has to go to Mars and just sit on orbit.

Sex in space? C'mon, get real. The Russians would be too moralistic to send a "loose woman", and the Americans on the shuttle? There's no room! Getting privacy for the toilet is bad enough. Now, ISS ... maybe eventually. You can get lost in that thing.
posted by dhartung at 2:05 PM on June 7, 2001

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