AW&ST mag article, "Women Have Advantages As Astronauts, But" ...

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Well-Known Member
Jun 29, 2011
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Was in the mood to stir stuff up on an article in Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine article about women as astronauts; here are my 3 replies to a comment on it.
southwestforests is me. Sometimes when I can support it I get in the mood to not go with the flow but to go crosscurrent or even directly oppose the current.

(in younger decades I did some canoeing, loved it, and found that contesting the current can at times be no easy task, very far from one in fact)
(but if you make smart moves, and can convince your front paddler to make smart moves, ya might just never capsize though everyone else did)
(there was one float trip where I overheard my front paddler opining to others that I was too strict, demanding, or something. it somehow escaped his notice that he was the only dry person attending that conversation)
(I was amused)

Women Have Advantages As Astronauts, But History Gives Men A Head Start
Jun 14, 2017 Frank Morring, Jr. | Aviation Week & Space Technology
He adds that it is extremely difficult to make scientific gender comparisons about the physiological responses to spaceflight given the small size of the populations—women and men—who have flown in space, as well as the careful selection process for space travelers today and the lack of a control group.
The space environment varies over time, and spacecraft are different mission to mission, notes Nicogossian, who also served as NASA’s chief medical officer and senior adviser for health affairs. The agency did not even consider that women might respond differently to space until the 1970s, when drug researchers on Earth began adding gender as a variable.

It didn’t matter much at first. Aside from Soviet cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova, who spent three days in space in 1963, and Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982, it was 1983 before Sally Ride kicked off fairly routine spaceflight for women on the space shuttle.

“We did not build the system to support women in space,” says Nicogossian. “The space race was kind of an impediment. We were trying to fly as many people as fast as we could. We were trying during the Cold War to show our technological supremacy.”

Even after women started flying, the hardware left over from the initial orbiting men’s club blocked them from full participation. The original shuttle spacesuits weren’t designed for smaller people, which left many of the female astronauts out of the lineup for extravehicular activity (EVA).

“The reason it took a while to do EVA for women is we didn’t have a proper spacesuit for women,” Nicogossian says."

And now my 3 comments; I didn't put the links in the posts because I'm pretty sure Aviation Week & Space Technology doesn't allow links in posts, and it takes mere seconds for a person to plug the title in to Google, but I'll put them here for my friends. :smile:

The starting point;

on Jun 15, 2017
never commented on an article before, but the comments here compelled me to. NASA is doing a great job picking its astronaut classes and this article is only giving facts. I had hoped we were past some of these issues, and then I read the comments and clearly we are not. Regarding the comment of women in STEM fields - your info is out of date. According to a stat I found, women earned 50.3% of science and engineering bachelor's degrees in 2013 and were 57% of undergraduate degrees that same year.

on Jun 15, 2017
If you saw a stat that women earned 50.3% of STEM degrees, then you saw a study that defined "STEM degrees" in some very strange way. I can tell you for sure that women are a distinct minority in the relevant fields of electrical, mechanical, and aero engineering, physics, chemistry, and math. I believe they are about at numerical parity in biology, medicine and computer science.

(logic question, do my own words count as needing quote punctuation? Is saying again what I said before actually quoting, even if I said it elsewhere at another time?)
southwestforests --> that's me :D
on Jun 15, 2017
An article worth reading might be PBS Newshour's "Why the STEM gender gap is overblown" author, Denise Cummins, posted on April 17, 2015.
Interesting conclusion she comes to,
"The bottom line
Women are clearly capable of doing well in STEM fields traditionally dominated by men, and they should not be hindered, bullied, or shamed for pursuing careers in such fields. But we also should not be ashamed if our interests differ from men’s. If we find certain careers more intrinsically rewarding than men do, that does not mean we have been brainwashed by society or herded into menial fields of labor. Instead, we should demand that greater intrinsic and monetary compensation be awarded to the work we like and want to do."

on Jun 15, 2017
Another article of related interest, "Why Women (Like Me) Choose Lower-Paying Jobs" by Lisa Chow, posted September 11, 2013 for the NPR program Morning Edition.
"Women are overrepresented among majors that don't pay very well (psychology, art, comparative literature), and underrepresented in lots of lucrative majors (most fields in engineering).
And even when they choose high-paying majors, women often don't choose high-paying jobs. For example, math is a pretty lucrative major, and more than 40 percent of math majors are women. But women who major in math are much more likely than men to go into lower-paying professions, like teaching.
Midway through the conversation, I realized that the economist — Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown University — was basically talking about me. I described my situation to Carnevale: I majored in applied math. I have an MBA. And I'm working as a reporter at NPR.
"Oh, you left a lot of money on the table," he told me. "You left probably as much as $3 [million] to $4 million on the table.""
"But I chose a lower-paying field before marriage or kids. I never felt excluded in a male-dominated workplace. So what's my excuse? I love my job.
"You're doing something that I suspect you need to do," Carnevale says. Oftentimes, he says, passion for work trumps money and skills."

on Jun 15, 2017
One more article to see, "Snapshot Report – Degree Attainment
by Research Center | Jan 26, 2015 | Reports, Snapshot Report | "
From an outfit called the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center".
And they have a data point which supports the areas of interest to women factor mentioned by the authors of the two previous references,
"In all years studied, women earned the majority of bachelor’s degrees in biological and agricultural sciences and social sciences and psychology."

And now, dessert, or maybe not.

Crumb-Free Bread Might Soon Be Coming to Space
It’s one way to make space more livable.
by Erik Shilling
June 13, 2017

"Bread, as we know it, is banned in space. This is less to make astronauts’ lives more miserable than to avoid a catastrophic, deadly fire, should crumbs drift into a spacecraft’s electrical system, or other complications.
In the early years of the space program, this concern was mostly hypothetical, until 1965, when John Young, an astronaut on Gemini 3, snuck a corned beef sandwich, from Wolfie’s Restaurant at the Ramada Inn in Cocoa Beach, into the spacecraft. There was no disaster, but there were crumbs everywhere, and a bunch of politicians angry that the astronaut wasn’t eating the carefully engineered food that cost millions to develop.
So crumby bread hasn’t made it back to space since, but now scientists in Germany are developing something that might pass muster with aerospace engineers: bread that lacks crumbs entirely. ...
The scientists, part of a company called Bake in Space, ..."