Space is a place full of unsolved mysteries for humans to solve, setting endless goals; meanwhile, there are a huge number of possibilities for humans to make other discoveries in space. Government agencies and private companies such as NASA and SpaceX are leading the way towards the unknown universe. However, NASA, one of the most important agencies, has been sending mostly male astronauts for decades, leaving women as minorities in the space programs. Starting with Yuri Gagarin, 565 male astronauts were in space while only 59 female astronauts went into space. Even though women handle extreme situations better and are far more resistant than men when it comes to long term space travel, they didn’t have enough opportunities. Therefore, NASA’s ‘Artemis’ program which aims to send the first woman to the Moon is very important as it highlights female capabilities and deconstructs gender stereotypes.
We must not abandon our female astronauts who are more than capable of completing their mission; they are physically and mentally suitable for long-term space expeditions. Scientists who study auxology explained that the physical qualities of women are much more suited to space, due to their smaller frame and the amount of food they consume. This gives important advantages: less food, less waste, lower consumption of fuel, and less oxygen required. Since funding has been the biggest obstacle to space travel, sending women into space instead of men will be more cost-effective. Furthermore, according to the National Space Biomedical Research Institution, “women suffer less from hearing loss” and “do not exhibit clinically significant visual impairment”. This is significant because if astronauts have any kind of diseases or injuries, there is a great possibility that they will be able to go to space where it is full of life-threatening hazards. Hearing loss is extremely detrimental in space and will definitely halt the astronauts from going to space, even though they are professionals. Furthermore, Scott Kelly, who was a NASA astronaut who spent 520 days in space and suffered from eye problems, wrote in his autobiography that “we just might have to send an all-women crew to Mars”. Likewise, men have a great possibility of suffering from an exacerbation of their eyes, of which women have a lower probability of infection. Furthermore, space programs are long-term missions that are mentally and physically stressful. According to National Geographic, men are better in short-term goal situations, while women are better in longer-term and habitation-type circumstances. Therefore, it is significant that NASA is acknowledging women’s superiority and suitability in space expeditions and sending the first woman to the moon on ‘Artemis’.
Only 19 percent of U.S. congressional members, less than 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, and only two out of the current crop of U.S. presidential candidates are women. Even though women had abundant rapid advances in the private sector and got equal education as men, there is a huge gap between genders in most areas: politics, economics, business, and finance. Through the program organized by the immense institution that is NASA, there will be a change in the way society presents women; women will be more recognized with their abilities, will not be judged by their appearances and will be treated equally as men. For example, there is only 7.2 percent of women working as aircraft pilots and flight engineers. This suggests women are lagging far behind men in STEM areas. Experts say schooling and cultural biases teaches girls that they are less adept than boys. Furthermore, these thoughts continue encouraging people to assume that the majority of women are more inept than men in most science, technology, engineering, and math careers. Several decades ago, John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, showed his extreme sexism towards women in space, by stating that “The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order.” He trampled young girls’ passion for their dream of becoming female astronauts. However, this is just a preconception because there are lots of women who are equally, or more successful, than men. Starting with NASA, an influential institution, other companies and institutions will recognize the significance of women’s positions and start to employ them more, not only limited to STEM professions but also in other subjects like professors and lawyers. As a result, the program will be a great milestone in the history of feminism, where women are given the same social voice as men.
‘Artemis’ will not only change the view of people towards female astronauts but also their own thoughts about their careers. Due to gender prejudice in our society, there are times when people are forced to give up on pursuing their dream jobs. Although society claims that there is not much gender discrimination in the workplace, the majority of people hold biases, especially in STEM fields. In Korea, more than half of the citizens, including women, believe that ‘Women are not good at handling machines’; this makes it difficult for women to be determined to have careers related to machines, even if they are passionate about it. However, by looking at the women astronauts proudly accomplishing their dreams, all people, going through job stereotypes, will get motivated, believe they could succeed, and be strong even if they have experienced harassment. During the past century, there were mostly 'men's jobs’ and it was normal for women to choose ‘feminine’ jobs that required less time, although they were paid less. In South Korea, there was a #MeToo movement run by the young women who experienced sexual harassment and abuse. Seo Ji-Hyeon, the public prosecutor who started the #MeToo movement, accused a senior ministry official of groping her; however, instead of getting assistance from others she suffered punitive responses, including job transfers and poor performance reviews. As female astronauts, who were once ignored and treated poorly as minorities, are becoming prominently featured in space exploration programs, other women will be encouraged not to give up and convinced to keep fighting for their own rights and dreams. Even though they are in outrageous situations in their job or going against people’s opposition to certain jobs, they will and must work for equal rights for both men and women as they are doing the right thing for society. Then, there will not be much sexual harassment towards a certain gender or their choice of the profession, and the next generation will be proud of it. Therefore, the ‘Artemis’ program will eliminate any and all cases where people must change jobs due to discrimination or negative perceptions towards their professions.
The first African American female astronaut, Mae C. Jemison, said: “Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination”. Like her, women who aspire to be astronauts must not limit themselves, and instead, stand up and fight for their dreams. In my opinion, there must be equal opportunities for both men and women to be involved in major space exploration, and I believe that NASA’s ‘Artemis’ program will be the first step to help people eliminate their prejudices and biases against female astronauts. However, we as a society, as well as the government, must continue to ameliorate women’s rights and fight against sexism.
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