The Other Half of the Sky

Future of Space Travel May
Belong to Female Astronauts

Some two years ago, NASA was looking for a few good astronauts. It found a few good women. In fact, four out of the newest batch of eight space-bound Americans are female, truly a record. Unlike most professions, being an astronaut accurately reflects our demographics.
They may all thank their lucky stars to Valentina Tereshkova, a Russian who became the first woman in orbit 50 years ago last Sunday. As if on cue, Wang Yaping, China’s second female astronaut, has returned to Earth yesterday, after 15 days in space with two others.
Valentina’s launch, two years after Yuri Gagarin’s historical flight, was a second stunning win for the Soviet Union in the early years of the space race. After Godspeed John Glenn, in 1962, it’d take two decades for Sally Ride to, well, ride the Space Shuttle and become the first American female to get there.
As it goes, June seems to be a special time for women in space. Apart from Wang, Liu Yang, China’s first female astronaut, went aloft last year on the 16th, the same day as Valentina‘s, while Sally, who passed away last July, boarded the shuttle 30 years ago, on the 18th.

VALENTINA & THE FEMALE FLYERS
Perhaps mirroring the times, their trips were radically different. Valentina‘s type of orbit is now routinely done by unmanned rockets. Sally rode the no-longer active Shuttle Program, and Wang’s flight is part of China’s ambitious plan to build its own space lab.
Thus, even though our bets are still heavily stacked in the new crop of female astronauts and scientists who may help lift us all to a consistent new program of space exploration, the odds are still against women in space: of 534 space travelers, so far only 57 have been female. So much for demographics.
But let’s not restrict our imagination just yet. When it comes to exploring the physical universe, there’s practically everything to be done. Assuming that we don’t self implode without even trying, within a century we may as well be traveling if not through the stars, then at least among near planets in and outside the Solar System.
It may all start with a quick landing on an asteroid. Then another trip to the Moon, this time not on gossamer wings. A few additional extravagant dreams, and that long haul to Mars, the one-way ticket reserved for a very special breed of not yet born humans, and who, most likely, won’t return to Earth either.
And who’s not to say that on that very open-ended journey, someone may become the first space mother? It’s likely – and even preferable – that nationality won’t be relevant then. Or race. Or, to a certain extent, age. Gender, though, will. And there’s just one that’s been trained on this particular task for 100,000-plus years.

Just the time-frame we need to get used to think, if we’re to vanquish war, climate change, pollution, over population, diminishing natural resources, and, wny not? greed. As a matter of fact, if we do get at least a few of those right, there won’t be really any limits to what we’ll be able to do. Including having a birth in outer space.
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Read Also:
* The Red Chronicles
* Sorry, Not a Winner
* Out There

Friendship 7


Godspeed,
John Glenn

It was 50 years ago today. The man who would become at 77 the oldest person to ever leave Earth’s atmosphere just a few years after that, was also the first American to fly to space.
The order of the previous sentence is not reversed. For most things in life, it’s good have a perspective, a context, a place and time. Not for this fact, though, and not for John Glenn.
Every time we frame his flight into what was happening them, he and his adventure get somehow short changed. Before even taking off, he was already upstaged by Yuri Gagarin. The Mercury program was not the one that would finally get us to the moon.
And the space age making history then, was really an ongoing arms race in disguise, between two dangerous superpowers.
So let’s drop the academic, and ultimately toothless, exercise of Continue reading

Space Landmarks

Shuttle Enterprise Comes to
New York Intrepid Museum

Maybe it’s all a coincidence. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight, the one that Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin‘s undertook around the earth. That historical, 108-minute trip ignited a fierce competition between the Soviet Union and the U.S. to land a man on the moon and ended eight years later with American Neil Armstrong stepping on the surface of earth’s satellite.
Twenty years to the day of Gagarin‘s flight, NASA launched the first of the Space Shuttles, Columbia, which along Continue reading

Starman

The Cosmonaut
Who Fell to Earth

‘The space vehicle is shoddily constructed, running dangerously low on fuel; its parachutes — though no one knows this — won’t work and the cosmonaut, Vladimir Komarov, is about to, literally, crash full speed into Earth, his body turning molten on impact.
As he heads to his doom, U.S. listening posts in Turkey hear him crying in rage, “cursing the people who had put him inside a botched spaceship.”‘
This is a heart-tugging excerpt of “Starman,” an upcoming Continue reading

Astro Chimp

First Astronaut Never Told
Anyone About His Experience

In 1961, the U.S. was hopelessly behind the Soviet Union in the space race. The Soviets had already sent the Sputnik and a dog named Laika into orbit and, few knew at the time, were readying Yuri Gagarin to be the first human to fly beyond earth’s atmosphere that same year.
Under pressure, the U.S. couldn’t even find an American born chimpanzee to be trained and flown to outer space. The solution was to use Ham, a French Camaroon-born chimp, who was purchased for $457 for the experiment. His 16 minutes of fame came and went fast, but gave the U.S. some precious time Continue reading