WOMEN IN SPACE ------------ John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc firstname.lastname@example.org www.nyskies.org 2013 April 13 initial 2013 May 23 current
Introduction ---------- 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the first female space flight by Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union. She orbited Earth with Popovich in June 1963. April is the anniversary month for the first human orbital flight by Yuri Gagarin, also of the Soviet Union. His solo ride around the Earth ws in 1961. In fact, each April, this year on the 16th, New York celebrates the Gararin event with a Yuri's Night social party in a night club, usually on Manhattan. The Tereshkova flight is often missed from casual discourse about space travel, altho those of men are routinely played up. Flights into space by other women are submerged in the usual accounts of human ventures into space. Such marginalization of women in space, and in most other higher- skill careers, is one of the sorrier features in our current society. It sends a dissuasive and dismissive telegram to potential young females who want to enter such careers. The present paucity of females in the technical and engineering disciplines is the imprinted evidence of this situation. Here I summarize the meeting and insert collateral material relating to human spaceflight.
NYSkies invite ------------ On 5 April 2013 I received an invite thru Myrna Coffino, a major supporter and advocate for NYSkies. The United Nations was holding a special session for the Tereshkoa anniversary and she obtained permits for NYSkies members to attend! It was on Thursday 11 April 2013 at 10AM EDST. The session was a panel of three space leaders to discuss and explain the opportunities of women in the aerospace industry. I personally on occasion am invited to sit a UN meeting every so often for astronomy, engineering, culture by a singular request to specific persons. This is much like the annual invite I an favored with for the engineer's inspection of Grand Central Terminal, which I already received for the 2013 event. This invite in hand was the first for NYSkies as a whole group. Because NYSkies Seminars often relate to space projects, like the Planck mission at the April 5 meeting, and its members follow space news, I welcomed the invite. I posted the notice, adapted from Myrna's formal papers, in the NYSkies yahoogroup and supplemental mailing list on Monday the 8th of April. I got several replies of deep interest, even tho the session was in a workday morning. Most of us can't take time off, but a few can. I myself slided my lunch hour to the meeting.
DPI-NGO ----- This anniversary celebration was part of an ongoing program of briefings and updates run by the United Nations for its Non Governmental Organizations, NGO. These are outfits who, not eligible for full statehood membership, are allowed to attend certain categories of UN meetings to keep informed of matters of their concern. There are many concurrent sets of these meetings in broad classes to cater to the diversity of NGO interests. The meetings are arranged thru the UN Department of Public Information, whence the initials of the meeting sponsor DPI-NGO. The invite noted that NYSkies attendees should sign in under 'NYSkies', in spite of it not [yet?] having NGO status at the UN. I later learned that we were the only outside group invited to this meeting. All other attendees represented standing NGOs.
Meeting hall ---------- The meeting was in the Salvation Army base on East 52nd St between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, not in the UN campus like most other DPI-NGO events. It was a quick train ride from my office at Herald Square to the Salvation Army, with the station exit there being in a shopping concourse of a corner office tower. On entering the building I found a lobby desk laid out with sign- in sheets. I asked if there was a particular one to use. The agent said they are all the same and I could sing on any one. I did: 'John Pazmino, NYSkies'. The agent seemed pleased with that. In the NYSkies announcement I advised to have to hand a photo ID in case it's requested. Mine was not called up and I did not offer it. It seemed the same for other attendees arriving at about the same time. They were passed thru without asking for any papers. The meeting was in a ground floor auditorium a few meters from the street entrance. I never penetrated deeper into the building to see its other features and rooms.
Audience ------ I entered the auditorium, with bench seating and a raised stage. It appeared to hold about 200 people if packed in the benches. The room was almost empty at first with more UN crew working at the stage than audience in seats! The invite stipulated that we be in our seats at 10AM and it was quite 10 o'clock when I took my seat in a forward row of benches. What's the story here? Within the next fifteen minutes more attendees arrived, including a couple NYSkiers who sat near me. The full attendance was in place by 10:30AM, still only about 1/4 of the seats, or about 50 total. The people were mostly women of mid to elder age, with only a sprinkling of men. Most were in business or other neat street dress. From the banter among them it seemed that most were wisely about assorted world affairs. On the stage was a table for the speakers, three at first, then four when the moderator took the last seat in the later half of the meeting. A microphone on flex cord offered ample level of sound. For the Q&A a DPI agent passed around a wireless mike. SOme people started their question before the mike reached them, causing the audience to ask them to wait. They restarted their comment when the microphone was in hand. The room was well lighted from ceiling lamps and daylight thru side windows. I had no trouble reading papers or writing notes. The air was acclimated to a comfortable level, altho a few women donned scarfs or sweaters. With mild weather outside it was probably simpler to wear the garment than to crumple it on an empty seat.
National Space Society -------------------- I was surprised to learn in the days after NYSkies received its invite that there was no notice from the National Space Society, NSS, national office or from its New York City chapter. The chapter is also known as the New York Space Society. I assumed that this panel on human spaceflight is a must-do event for NSS members. Yet there was no advance news of it in any national or local NSS news. NSS members attending the DPI-NGO session did so thru the NYSkies invite, because many members associate with NYSkies. One NSS national delegate did attend, Amanda Moore, who follows the work of the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs, OOSA. It is homed in Vienna, Austria, but Moore is from New York. She on two instances from her audience seat gave comments in the Q&A. One was to ask if certain upcoming OOSA events can be held in New York. The response was that DPI was already in comms with the Vienna office and is working on holding space-related activities in the City. On/about April 13th the chapter issued its May 2013 newsletter Astro-Gaia. It, in the extract here, notes the meeting as a past event with no anticipation of a later account, like from Moore. ------------------------------------------------- UN's INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SPACEFLIGHT CELEBRATES 50 YEARS OF FEMALE ASTRONAUTS On April 11, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first orbital spaceflight by a woman, 26-year-old Valentina Tereshkova on June 16, 1963 (a tandem mission with Pavel Popovich in a separate Vostok), there was an invitation-only [NYSkies members were invited), non- public UN-NGO celebration in Manhattan of women space travelers, an observance held through the declaration two years ago by a U.N. General Assembly Resolution declaring April 12 as the International Day of Human Space Flight. Amanda Moore is the NSS UN-NGO representative and works at the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs. -------------------------------------------------------------
Anniversary --------- Because April 2013 is the anniversary for both the first human, a male, to orbit Earth and the first female to travel in space, also by Earth orbit, the speaker's dialog often swopped between the two for the meeting purpose. Nominally the meeting was a retro- and prospect on women in spaceflight. Almost from the start it enlarged to deal with the place of women in all of the aerospace community and in all technical and scientific fields. The meeting opened with a reading of UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/65/271 setting April 12th as 'International day of human space flight'. It was enacted on 2011 April 7 with implicit recognition of both flights of Gagarin and Tereshkova. Look again at that UN resolution again. It sets the International Day of Human Space Flight on the date of Gagarin's, the man's, flight. Tereshkova's, the woman's, flight is subsumed into it. A couple people who responded to me about the invite asked if this event was some congratulation of the USSR and Communism. From the wording of the invitation it could be interpreted that way. I myself figured that this would be a mistake because too many UN countries know pretty damn well what the Soviet presence in their territory was really like. This session was entirely separate from other celebrations for the space anniversary, virtually entirely centered on the Gargarin flight!, else where in the City. Yuri's Night comes on April 16th in Gramercy Park MH and the April 19th NYSkies Seminar presents a show 'How we went to the Moon 100 years ago'.
Moderator ------- The modertor for the DPI-NGO meeting was slated as Maria-Luisa Chavez, chief of the DPI-NGO operations. She was detained in travel to the meeting. A substitute DPI agent standed in for her but I missed her name. She seemed up to speed, perhaps from working with Chavez. After the dedicated remarks of the three panelists, the moderator took the fourth seat at the table and engaged in the Q&A.
Speakers ------ The panel of three speakers was a top-flight selection of space leaders! They were: ----- Evgeny Zagainov from the Russian mission to the UN Anousheh Ansari of the X-Prize and first female space tourist Susan Chodakewitz of Tetra Tech AMT ----- The three covered a government, civilian, and industry sector of spaceflight. While Ansari heads up a aerospace business, she was selected mostly for her trip to ISS as a tourist. Chodakewtiz also works educational services for young females in science. Zagainov walked to the meeting from his mission house. The other two arrived from out-of-state. Each speaker gave an initial statement, then elaborated on their themes for females in the space program. After this dialog there was an extended Q&A. This segment occupied about 2/3 of the two-hour meeting. The moderator took the fourth seat at the table to field questions with the three speakers.
Women in space ------------ An early comment was that it is still necessary to have dedicated discussion about 'women in space'. It should be the goal to eventually work just with 'humans in space' with no gender distinction. Zagainov went to the Moon describing the Soviet and Russian achievements in space, noting the part women played in that endeavor. He was careful to blend the USSR into Russia at the crossover point in their history. He was fuzzed up when walking thru the long hiatus when Russia excluded females as cosmonaut candidates. The country resumed accepting women applicant only a few years ago. One of the main problems for the US in attracting women as astronauts is the just about every astronaut is chosen from the ranks of USAF or USN aircraft pilots. With so few female pilots there just aren't many in the pool to pick from. Until the pool enlarges to other skilled careers besides only pilots, there may always be far too few women among astronaut candidates. The reason to use military pilots as the source for astronauts is glatt simple. These folk are already trained in many skills and to handle complicated machines and are disciplined to cope with dangerous situations. Going beyond this source may complicate the training and instruction requirements for future astronauts. For sure, no astronaut can come from a person who is merely interested and enthusiastic about space travel. The preparation for space tourist is simpler than for an astronaut/cosmonaut, yet still arduous and rigorous. Ansari described her travails at Russia's Star City for about six months before qualifying to fly to ISS. The requirements for being a space tourist include the ability to set aside long time spans, six months at least, a faculty very few people enjoy. Folk in retirement could afford the time but they are entering an age of rising medical and physical erosion. This would quickly disqualify them from space tourism. It also came out in the dialog that women have biological needs that in the early Space Age were never considered. The Space Age began when 'men' were the ones going into space with women watching them on television. Space-related fixtures, tools, operating procedures still often ignore women. When a female is on the crew of a spaceflight they function as completely and competently as the male crew. Of course, if they couldn't, they would not be in the crew but washed out already. It does show that, with the fair chance and honest consideration, women can perform in space crews as well as men.
Inertia and weight ---------------- When describing her experience on ISS, Ansari did a goof. She mentioned that men and women do equally well in space because they are in zero-G. This is only partially correct and is a very common confusion between inertia and weight. Weight is the force pulling on a body against the resistance of the ground or other support. Inertia is the resistance of a body against a change of motion, say from rest to being carried. To move a body you must overcome its inertia. A man in general has stronger upper body muscles to do this than a woman. He can manhandle a machine part while an other crew bolts it into place. The typical woman may have a harder go at doing this, altho she can easily do the bolt work. Ansari was a passenger on ISS, not part of the operating crew. Like other tourists she did not actively run the spaceship. She handled only small loads, like food, tableware, clothing. She may just not have realized that the heavy items were moved about against their larger inertia, requiring substantial muscle strength. The mixup with weight and inertia is a patheticly prevalent one among spacefarers, leading to some ridiculous descriptions of how we will live in space.
First Iranian ----------- Ansari noted she is the first Iran space traveler. She missed the incident about her Iran shoulder patch. NASA went ape-crap wild when she wanted to include on her flight suit an emblem of her native country. After a major brou-ha-ha she left off the patch. I don't know if the meeting was recorded or there was an Iran 'spy' in the audience. The audience was asked to turn off recording devices, yet I saw many people taking pictures of the stage with cell phones and tablets. Assuming some recording, the president of Iran will not like it. On 4 February 2013 Iran president Ahmadmejad chimed up with his desire to be the first Iran astronaut. He was already upstaged by a woman and a monkey! This incident raised hysterical laughter when a commentator in the US acted surprised. 'He just was on a space ride last month', alluding to the Iran monkey flight in January 2013.
Ansari movie ---------- Much of the Q&A centered on Ansari's experience on ISS. The bulk of this discussion at the DPI-NGO meeting could be satisfied by the movie Ansari made about her ride. She composed 'Space tourist', first played in 2010 at Paley Center in New York. I with other NYSkies members went to this show. The movie was never mentioned in this meeting, not even as a reference. While there probably was no commercial promotion allowed, the movie was really a documentary of the ISS trip and it included a deep introspection of the Russian space program not shown else where. I wrote a summary of 'Space tourist' with added discussion of Russia, at 'www.nyskies.org/articles/pazmino/ansari.htm'.
Space tourism ----------- With Ansari as an actual space tourist, many questions related to the use of outer space in the tourism industry. Ansari fielded most of these questions. Tee cost per ride today for space travel ranges from about $200,000 for a suborbit 1-hour ride to about $30 million for a week stay at ISS. Few ordinary people can afford this cost. In Ansari's case, her company paid for her trip. She said that the way to drive prices down is thru competition among space companies. As each attracts customers they will devise cheaper methods of reaching outer space. On the other hand I note that NO space rides are running now, in early 2013. after about ten years of heavy work by several private spaceship companies, only the USS rides -- arranged by Russia -- were available. They are suspended now because seats on the Soyuz capsule are needed for ISS crew with none left for tourists. The US government does not cater to space tourists. Trips to ISS are operated thru the Russian space agency. Even then, Ansari was confined to only the Russian half of ISS on her trip. She emphasized that there is a definite amount of energy required to loft a given mass into space. Given the immense work so far to achieve just suborbit elevation, with no attempt to circle the Earth, it will take some unanticipated new and cheap energy source to move space travel into the public market. With the means to hand now and for the foreseeable future there is no way other than chemical rockets to hoist customers into space. Such means are innately horrificly expensive. Ansari gave an example from her telcomms work. When mobile telephony was first offered the units were heavy, some needing a whole automobile to carry them. They also were expensive, at least $1,000 to purchase the unit apart from the ongoing service fees. Today mobile phones are sometimes given free to new customers, on signing into a service contract, and they are carried in the pocket. She missed showing that there was a positive strong desire for mobile telcomms that impelled the development of better and cheaper products. People wanted and needed to talk to each other while away from a wired landline. There is still, after a half-century, no such motive for any ordinary person to take a space trip, other than for the hell of it once in a lifetime. Trips for other purposes, such as hypersonic flights between distant airports, is not yet practical. She expressed the hope that some day buying a spaceship ticket will be as simple as buying an airline ticket. I can't believe this silly analogy persists! Any airline traveler knows fully well that getting a ticket and then boarding the vehicle is hardly a simple task. Does Ansari go about by Amtrak and Greyhound?
Language ------ The panel seemed very cautious to speak of 'human', not 'manned', spaceflight. In the US 'manned' is still prevalent in space litterature, even in current works. Space travel started in the era when almost no females were enrolled in higher-level posts in industry. Women were still treated as hired hands to work in the clerical fields like typing and filing and reception. Just about all other careers and job names were stripped of their gender, like 'letter carrier' for 'mailman' and 'firefighter' for 'fireman', much of spacefaring retains the gendered terms. There is also the legacy of space travel movies in the early space age. They showed women as auxiliary crew or even only as ornaments to accompany the real spacemen. They also tended to wear scanty outfits with accentuated curves. In spite of the apparent care to keep 'manned' out of the dialog, there was a curious lapse of gender avoidance. Female middle to high school students were commonly called 'girls'. While this is stricta mente grammaticly correct the better term may be 'young women', 'teens', 'youths', In a few instances the speakers said 'women and girls'!
Social attitude ------------- In the old days, girls didn't belong with the men. Men did real work, had real jobs, made real money. Girls were for the enjoyment and pleasure of the men and to perform household and family functions. When a woman did reach a man's level of success, she was commonly treated as something odd, weird, strange. If she was eventually accepted, she was set upon by the hoochie- koochie routine. A visitor to the office is taken to her: ' And this is our new girl engineer'. Her male coworkers would muse about situations on the job for the woman, like a fantasy sit-com. Even today some proposals for future spaceflight minimize the standing of women. Dennis Tito, of all people as the first human space tourist!, in March 2013 put out a plan to fly a 'married couple' to Mars and back in 2018. Why a married couple. The idea is to allow means for the man to maintain familial relations during the journey of a couple years. He notes that so far a man is in ISS for a half-year while his wife stays home. The man loses his companion, probably adding to the stress and anxiety during the trip. Apart from the miserable attitude implied in the plan, there are social concepts that are rudely ignored. Why must the couple be 'married'? Can not the same purpose of the Mars trip be satisfied with a civil union or just a close friendship? Tito also seems ignorant of the marriage conditions in many US states, where same-sex couples may earn full marriage status. Does the Tito plan include these married couples? If we adhaere to the stipulation of an opposite-sex married couple, Tito seems utterly ignorant of outfitting his spacecraft for familial activity. No other spacecraft [admittedly] properly accounted for familial activity. NASA denies to the max all thought of letting these activities on its spaceflights. An other modern example is the suborbital rides by Virgin Galactic. The intent is that each person maintain good behavior during the ride. The firm is constantly propositioned by adult entertainment studios to film familial activity during the zero-G period of the ride. The waiver is that the riders may be any mix of gender. So far Virgin Galactic rejected all such ideas. Thru the entire discussion about women in the aerospace and other advanced fields, the meeting was carried by the three females, Ansati, Chodakewitz, and the substitute moderator. Zagainov more or less offered a word from time to time but mainly keeped to himself.
Women in STEM ----------- In addition to hard science of the sort associated with space travel, there are other collateral fields of immense importance to society. These are collected into the initials STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. In the boro of Queens the initials are written in reverse order, starting with 'M'. Of these only maths was a traditionally 'girl' subject in school. The others were often closed to young women. They often weren't allowed even to enroll in them. In my high school years, the boys were assigned to shop, wood and metal and joined hobby clubs using tools and kits. The girls were put in homemaking or business classes to become housewifes, office clerks, concierges and ushers, store workers. There were, and still are, New York City high schools dedicated to various industries like transit, automotive, electrical skills, aviation, seafaring, printing & publishing, building trades. Altho opne to both genders, they are overwhelmingly attended by yound men. In my time I attended conferences for the utility industry where there was a 'ladies's program'. The men went to the meetings, where they moved and shaked the electric power industry. Their wifes (never just a companion!) were taken on visits to musea, gardens, famous homes, brunches, decoratiing and furnishing talks, cooking demos. I personally know of several female astronomy colleagues who in school were actually advised to skip the sciences for being too hard or not suitable for women. Many of these astronomers went to other more accommodating schools and eventually became accomplished astronomers. A female youth intimated away from science get the drift to stay away. A woman at a technical meeting and shunted off to a boat ride gets the clue to forget about technology. This attitude shrinks the pool of potential women candidates for high-level employment and careers.
Routes to STEM ------------ The situation for women is orders better, in the US, now than in the late 20th century. It really did take a full and more generation since about 1960 to wash thru the grosser prevalent old-boy mentality toward women. Altho on a formal level women are equalizing with men in the STEM fields, there are pockets deep antiquated feelings. In other countries the indigenous society may still maintain a subjugated subordinate role for women. In some cases it is formally enforced by law or custom. In others it's part of a belief scheme, real or finagled. In a few cases, violation of the established place of a woman carries severe penalty. The theme of the speakers was that in the US we must get the attention of women students in their lower teens. This is in their middle school grades. Youths should be exposed to the STEM fields thru books, films, videos, exhibits, lectures, visits. The school should admit teen women into the 'boy' courses in STEM.
Phony future? ----------- The hoochie-koochie factor has to go, cold turkey. Same with pandering and condescendent behavior toward women. The first of two comments I offered was the problem of handling the apparent phniness of attracting women into disciplines with few current and likely fewer future career opportunities. A woman may feel she is exploited or even abused when she finds that after all her effort, schmaltzed by possibly pandering attitudes, she ends up hardly better in life than otherwise. The reply from the speakers was that we can't make the furtherance of women a one-track path. It has to be the entry to a wide field of prospects. Yes, there will always be only a handful of astronauts per country but the work done to aspire toward astronaut status are applicable to a broad range of other careers.
Home astronomy ------------ I offered two comments. The first was that for attracting and supporting women in STEM, elaborated above. The other was a reminder that in place right now is a structure for women to enjoy and take part in the space program without the machoism and old-boys burden. It also is free of muscular strength and playing with dangerous and complicated machines. By engaging in home-based astronomy, which is one of the greatest beneficiaries of the space program, women can wage a profession as fully equal to that by men. Home astronomy is often presented as requiring a telescope to work with. This is driven by the need to satisfy advertisers who by and large sell astronomy telescopes, gadgets, equipment.. The litterature caters to this income source by pressing readers to buy these products to become a fully-vested home astronomer. As fate has it, the bulk of telescopes are heavy, clumsy, mechanical devices that are designed by and for men. In fact, there ae some telescopes that can not even be looked thru by a women by its fundamental design flaw. The scope structure blocks a female body from getting the eye to the eyepiece. Telescopes can also come with a truckload of parts and accessories, all of which presume a masculine mentality and manuality to deal with. Women in many home astronomy settings are turned off and leave the fold. This is nonsense! A person -- male or female -- can carry out a vivid and valid astronomy profession with no telescope at all. New York has a peculiar setting where having a typical telescope can be a ridiculous burden. Carrying a 20-kilo crate up stairs in a walkup building is no simple task for a husky man. It can be impossible for a woman of light build. Neither man nor woman will for long carry such an load on the train or bus to a stargazing session. Once that's it. The result is the in the City home astronomy evolved away from masculine attributes to more mental and cerebral skills. There is also the thoro leveling of the playing field with computers and Internet, which are gender-free in their operation. At least in New York, home of the United Nations, women can enter and stay in the astronomy profession and, in the process, be integrated into the space program.
Conclusion -------- This DPI-NGO program was an excellent commemoration of human spaceflight and in hindsight probably should have been open to the general public. The auditorium was amply large enough for any reasonably expected number of attendees and there seemed nothing privileged or reserved to only UN officials in the presentation. As it was, it did a wise and welcome gesture to give Ms Coffino the invite for NYSkies to attract some city astronomers. The discussion quickly shifted to a general one about promoting STEM activities to women, not just the aerospace industry. This is a topic of quite broad concern in, among the sciences, astronomy. Most astronomy is carried out in an academic setting, where female astronomers, many being students with higher diplomas, are also subject to the masculine pressures of that world. The sentiments expressed at this DPI-NGO meeting definitely command serious consideration for home astronomy which may be the best climate, in the City for sure, for women to take part in a STEM- related profession. Home astronomers else where should do the effort to accept women into astronomy.in an honest and honorable manner.