Space conquest is one of the greatest adventures in humanity. It first appeared in the second half of the 20th century, during the Cold War. This goal of conquering space has become a race between the United States and the USSR, for prestige, the image of a great nation and thus showing its power to the rest of the world. This conquest would truly have been nothing without female support, support which is often underrepresented. On February 24, 2020, the lady who calculated the trajectories of the Apollo mission died at 101 years of age. What would the mission have looked like without her knowledge? The Grunge News team returns today to the history of the space conquest and the place of women in this conquest ...
There are several major important events in this race for space conquest. First, there were test flights on animals. The first spaceflight for living beings is attributed to fruit flies, sent in an American V2 rocket on February 20, 1947. The flies took off and went up to 100 km altitude, returning to Earth unharmed. Subsequently, many animals were utilized (for scientific purposes; to study the impact of this type of flight on the organism) to ensure that living things could go into space. New Mexico, June 11, 1948 marks the launch of Albert I, the first mammal in space, a rhesus macaque, aboard a craft constructed from German V2s. Following, there were 5 similar launches (all monkeys) between 1948 and 1950 which thus bore the name of "Albert series". Albert I, II and IV died during an impact on the ground when the rockets returned.
In 1950, the Soviets equipped two female dogs, Albina and Tsyganka, with a diving suit for a flight which took them to 85 km altitude. They returned to Earth, safe and sound, thanks to ejection seats and parachutes.
After many shipments of animals into space, technologies evolved. On October 6, 1957 the Soviets carried out the first orbital flight by a satellite, Sputnik 1.
A month later, on November 03, 1957, Laïka, a small Russian dog, became the first animal to be in orbit in space, but also to die there. Laïka was alive for eight to ten days and “required” to die through ingesting poison beforehand to avoid a painful death. This death had later been claimed. However, in the 1980s this version of events was denied by the Russians themselves, who then announced the real conditions that caused Laïka's death.
It is said that the ship was to have circled the earth 9 times due to a thermal malfunction, causing the temperature to rise to 40 degrees Celsius in the shuttle. So, she died of terrible suffering a few hours after her departure.
The United States, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) had to catch up with the advances taken by the Russians. NASA is the government agency responsible for the United States' space program.
A few years later, on April 12, 1961, the Soviets sent Yuri Gagarin, who was the first man to go into space. This first flight in space for a Man was envisaged as having 50% success. At the start, Youri Gagarin's pulse suddenly went from 64 to 157 beats per minute. Its shuttle, Volstok 1, flew at an altitude of 250 km on average for 1H48 min. He later states, “Of course I was nervous; only a robot would not have been nervous at such a time and in such a situation ”.
July 20, 1969, just 7 years after JF KENNEDY’s speech saying (“I believe that this nation should set a goal, before this decade ends, to send a Man on the Moon, and bring him back safe except on Earth "), the Apollo 11 mission set off and marked the history of men. During this mission, 3 astronauts participated (Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr), Neil Armstrong, is the first American astronaut to ever walk on the moon. It is, still to this day, the furthest point on earth ever walked by a human or any known living being. As he landed on lunar soil, he said: "It is a small step for man, a giant leap for humanity".
The great race to the Moon, completed by Apollo 17 in 1972, will have enabled significant technological progress. Since that day, dozens of other missions have made it possible to explore the solar system and advance in the conquest of space. NASA, today, is the most powerful space center in the world with $ 21.5 billion in turnover and 17,000 employees.
Among all these names, where the male gender is widely represented, women have nevertheless marked and contributed to the history of the space conquest themselves. Valentina Tereshkova, of Soviet origin, is the first woman in history to leave the atmosphere in 1963. When she carried out this mission, she was placed by the Soviet regime as a standard bearer symbolizing equality between men and women in the space conquest.
This became A symbol of hope for many women, however, it was not enough. Indeed, it took almost 20 years for the Americans to send Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.
France followed these examples in 1996, sending Claudie André-Deshays on a space mission, nearly 15 years after the first French Jean-Loup Jacques Marie Chrétien on June 25, 1982. After their careers as astronauts, these three women remained important figures in space conquest. While Claudie André-Deshays married an astronaut and became Minister of Research and then Advisor to ESA, Valentina Terechkova began a political career and Sally Ride founded a school of science to educate young girls.
However, women are still a minority in the space sector. Out of just over 560 astronauts to have flown to outer space, only 64 were women, or 10%.
Faced with these gender disparities, we can still say that women have been and will be essential to technological and other advances. Take Katherine Johnson for example. Born in 1918 in the state of Virginia, Katherine was a gifted mathematician who became a high school student at the age of 10 and a bachelor at 14. She later became a teacher, but in 1953 left to work for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, formerly NASA). Despite segregation laws (Jim Crow laws), differentiating American citizens in public spaces according to their skin color, the agency accepted her in. The only setback was that she was required to work in a separate building. Gifted in mathematics, she was
invited to join the group of engineers responsible for sending Apollo 11 to the Moon. While undergoing racism and sexism, this prodigy remained working for NASA and therefore enabled, among other things, the success of the Apollo 11 mission. For this mission, Katherine Johnson calculated all the trajectories of the shuttle. Until recently, she was working on future missions to Mars. This extraordinary and tireless mathematician was recognized in 2015 for all of her work by the incumbent American President, Barack Obama. The Presidential Medal of Liberty (highest American civil honor) was presented to him on this occasion. In 2019, she received the American Congress gold medal. She will have received during her life many distinctions for her help in advancing the world, she died on February 24, 2020 at 101 years old.
We can conclude that Women have thus always been essential to space conquest; these are many of whom which have marked the history of space and who have participated or still participate in space programs:
Mae Jemison, the first black woman to travel in space aboard the Endeavor STS-47 shuttle.
Svetlana Yevgenyna Savitskaya, the only woman to have twice received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
Or the astronaut Christina Koch who recently broke the record for the longest stay in space for a woman with a total of 328 days 13 hours and 58 min dethroning the record for Peggy Whitson (288 days). Christina left to join the ISS on March 14, 2019 and returned on February 06, 2020.
This document retraces the space conquest which also proves that women have the same capacities and ambitions as men in reaching space missions. Introducing them more could therefore only be beneficial, and this would prove that gender equality is now respected in programs of this scale, influencing the world in regards to respect equality. In France, only 17% of engineers are women, an alarming figure that needs to be addressed.