Hurdles for Women on a Stellar Scale

On October 18th we read about 2 Nasa astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir who made history by completing the first ever all-female spacewalk. Their task was to replace a failed power control unit outside of the International Space Station. It had been announced by NASA in March that Christina Koch would be part of the all female crew but the spacewalk was postponed because ( can you believe this ) a medium size space suit was not made available in time for her fellow astronaut Anne McClain the only available size was a large!!

The story was of interest on many levels, not just the comedy of a US$ billion budget being thwarted by the wrong sized space suit, but one being the link to the thermo regulating technology we use in Fifty One Apparel’s clothing which was originally used by NASA in their clothing to help keep the astronaut’s body temperature regulated but there are other reasons which hit a chord.

The first woman into space was the Soviet cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 but it would be another 20 years before another woman would fly and 214 spacewalks after the first men walked out into space. In those early days women were not eligible to take on the role of an astronaut as they were required to be military test pilots a career that was not available to women. In 1978 NASA allowed female applicants into the Space Programme but yet women were still not expected to take up the role’s previously dominated by men. It seems inconceivable for such a forward thinking industry which endeavoured in breaking new boundaries yet gave so little importance to the role and potential women could make to the success and achievements of their technical advances.

In these early times of space exploration it was reported that a group of female researchers were advised not to operate any complex machinery if they were on their period ! and when Sally Ride, America’s first female astronaut went on a week’s space trip she was sent with 100 tampons and a makeup bag. Even today with a huge amount of money invested in space technology it appears that even the radiation shields designed FOR women are not well designed for the female form…

Female astronauts are subject to the same physical effects of space travel as men. These include physiological changes due to weightlessness such as loss of bone and muscle mass, health threats from cosmic rays and psychological stress. It was first thought that menstruation could pose a health risk once in space but this attitude has now been quashed.

As both men and women are impacted by radiation it is understandable that there is a high risk for women to contract  ovarian and breast cancer so NASA only allow women to spend 50% of the time on missions which must in time, sadly, impact on their career progression.

It is not only women working in offices who face challenges in their environment but even those on another planet !

While we have drawn some tenuous links to our brand, one thing for certain is that our clothes are designed to fit the female body and we would certainly not send out a large instead of a medium ! We may not have such a strong brand as NASA but we know that our clothes are out of this world……………….

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