Fri 18 Jun 21 in Science

Women on Mars

#Cosmos

Exploration, curiosity, and discovery are a part of the human spirit. In trying to uncover new things, we as humans will inevitably hit the edge of our known world. Setting our sights up to the sky is only natural. As of now, interstellar travel is still ways away. Humans have only physically reached the moon, and are starting to eye the next target, Mars. Before a crew can even set foot on a space shuttle to Mars, a whole array of studies and preparations need to be finalized. Every angle has to be approached. One such angle may include bringing together an all-women crew. 

 

Nature’s plans

Historically, women have not been as present in space missions as men have. Ever since space exploration began 60 years ago, 90% of people to have been in space are men. Nature seems to have other plans though. Of the small number of women who have participated in missions to space, physical evidence shows that women’s bodies may endure spaceflight effects better. 

So when setting our eyes on colonizing Mars, an all-women crew might be the better option. This idea seems bizarre at first glance, but several factors could offer better chances at making a Mars trip easier with only women. 

 

Not an ordinary road trip

When going on a road trip, one needs some supplies. The car, a full tank, some water maybe. Besides the car, everything else can be found on-route, a gas station with fuel, water, and food, a public bathroom. 

When taking a trip to Mars, all the commodities of life on the planet just go out the window. Everything needs to be carried from Earth all the way there and back. Food, water, oxygen, the fuel all weigh down the shuttle and for that more fuel is needed which again weighs some more. It’s a circle and there is no gain without loss. 

Weight is constantly a struggle with launching things into space. This issue can be somewhat resolved if all the crew members on board are women. The logic is that small women weigh less, women use up less oxygen, eat less and thus produce less waste. Women’s bodies lose weight far slower than men so outstretching rations is easier than it would be for men, who need a higher caloric intake to burn. 

 

Physical effects

Male and female physicalities suffer different effects when exposed to zero gravity and the higher radiation levels of space. Only in recent times could these physiological responses be tested on female bodies, and so they can be considered new results. 

Men are not as affected by motion sickness due to the lack of gravity as women are, but men also experience weakened eyesight and hearing, of which women seem to not suffer. 

American astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 520 days in the international space station, has problems with his vision as a result of the time spent up there. Kelly spent a year in space specifically to determine how a human body would be affected by prolonged exposure to conditions in a space shuttle. Women have had issues with urinary tract infections, so it is not all perfect. There are pros and cons for both sexes. 

 

Personality traits

Besides physical differences, there are also psychological ones. In the past, many studies and experiments have been conducted to test the endurance of the human psyche. Mars 500 comes to mind, where 6 people spent 520 days in a shuttle-like environment, without the bonus of zero gravity. The volunteers used were all men, so there is no equivalent experiment with only women. The only studies that can be used to compare, are logs from women working in polar expeditions. 

It may surprise no one that women do talk more than men, and that very thing is what may help them cope better in conditions of monotony and stress away from home. Signs of psychological distress have been recorded with both sexes, but women express it more freely and thus deal with it, and move on faster. 

This does not automatically imply that men are to be excluded or would fare worse at getting along with each other, only that some specific traits necessary might be naturally found in women. 

 

Colonization

Last but not least, when it comes to colonization it may be easier to send only women with their own personal sperm bank. As unromantic as that sounds, again the issues of weight and money come into play. It will be cheaper to send only male seeds, as that will also broaden the gene pool.

 

In the end

It looks like a feminist movement push women to demand their place at the table of space travel and while that may be true, there should never have been an issue of merit. At the end of the day, these women are only doing their job and that should be enough. 

It is a testimony of the time, that mentalities have changed from John Glen’s testimony about how women are not in this field as “a fact of our social order” because “men go off to fight wars and fly airplanes”, to Scott Kelly’s statement that “we just might have to send an all-women crew to Mars.”