Many firsts for women in a very male orbit.


In 2007, Peggy Whitson set off on her 2nd excursion to the place station and shortly turned its first lady commander. At the time, she was a single of only a few women to have lived on the I.S.S. Sunita Williams later commanded it in 2012, and Dr. Whitson experienced command all over again in 2017. They are the only ladies ever to consider command of the station.

Both equally girls are incredible, but why did it get so extended to have a girl commander. And why have there been just two?

Partly it’s stats: Only 66 girls have been into house, when compared to just about 500 adult men. When somewhere around 90 p.c of house travelers are men, it’s effortless for many years to move in which the area station is populated by all-male crews.

The history for the number of girls in area concurrently is 4 that was set when the Room Shuttle Discovery visited the I.S.S. in 2010. At the time, there have been 9 guys and 4 gals in room. That 12 months also was the first time that two women served on the room station at the same time — but it took an additional 10 years for the feat to be recurring.

In 2019, Anne McClain and Christina Koch had been scheduled to carry out the 1st all-woman spacewalk — until eventually NASA found that there weren’t two spacesuits that in shape both equally astronauts. Spacesuits are commonly also substantial for lots of of the women of all ages astronauts, who are then not able to participate in all areas of a mission.

That limitation, in flip, decreases the amount of correct slots for girls on missions, so fewer gals fly, which leads to less commanders. Even so, Ms. McClain completed a initially on that mission: She turned the first lady to serve in two various crews with other women of all ages.

Pause for a second to unpack that. Until finally very last yr, with that 1 exception in 2010, each and every lady who has lived on the I.S.S. did so with an otherwise all-male crew.

Months later on, in Oct 2019, that all-woman spacewalk ultimately happened. But though Jessica Meir and Ms. Koch were the only persons exterior the area station, they had been even now outnumbered inside by guys.

NASA has been operating to attain gender parity in its astronaut lessons. But even if it balances out the American astronaut corps, an all-woman I.S.S. crew remains a distant desire, since our global associates fly nearly completely adult men.

Now the retirement of the station is on the horizon. Will a third woman ever command it?



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