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Meet Russia’s All-New, All-Female Crew of Experimental Space Scientists

Before starting their simulated lunar mission, the team took time to push back against sexist questions from reporters.

Image via YouTube screen capture

A team of six Russian scientists stepped through the hatch of a mock rocket ship on Wednesday to start their eight-day experiment, going boldly where no man has gone before. The scientists—all women—are part of a study being undertaken by Russia’s Institute of Biomedical Problems. Researchers will assess the psychological and emotional effects on an all-female crew of astronauts engaged in an imaginary lunar mission, inside an International Space Station-esque vessel, reports Phys.org.


“There's never been an all-female crew on the ISS,” experiment supervisor Sergei Ponomaryov told Phys.org. “We consider the future of space belongs equally to men and women and unfortunately we need to catch up a bit after a period when unfortunately there haven't been too many women in space.”

Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to fly in outer space, was part of the Russian (then Soviet) space program, but that country has sent only three more female cosmonauts on space missions since.

While the experiment’s participants are in “flight,” their temporary habitat will consist of six cabins, a kitchen, a small gym, and a bathroom, explains Russia’s TASS news agency. During their eight-day mission, the six scientists have been tasked with conducting 30 experiments, TASS said.

Here is the crew as they’re bid farewell by Russian Federal Space Agency head Igor Komarov:

Before “launch,” the team—made up of researchers, a psychologist, and a doctor—spoke to the Russian press, and pushed back against a series of questions predicated on outdated gender stereotypes. According to Phys.org, when asked how they would cope without amenities such as makeup, and being away from men, crew member Darya Komissarova dismissed the question, explaining simply, “We are very beautiful without makeup.” Fellow participant Anna Kussmaul followed up: “We are doing work. When you're doing your work, you don't think about men and women.”

This “voyage” follows a 2010 experiment by the Institute of Biomedical Problems in which a crew of six men were locked in a mock capsule for 520 days to simulate a manned mission to Mars. That crew, like this one, was composed of volunteers.

[via phys.org, fusion]

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