Marsha Ivins Opines On Gender Diversity At NASA: "Enough Already!"

I'm a Retired Female Astronaut and I Can't Understand the Obsession With 'Gender Diverse' Space Crews, opinion by Marsha Ivins, Time

"And then there was Saralyn Mark, an M.D. and specialist in gender-based medicine, who spoke about gender bias. Her main point: NASA needs to -- no kidding -- realize there are gender differences because sending "gender diverse" crews to Mars is going to be difficult. At least I think that was her point. It was frankly hard to listen to because enough already! ...

... After Dr. Mark's testimony, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine once again mentioned how inspired his 11-year old daughter would be to see women taking leadership positions in space exploration. Well, Mr. Bridenstine, your agency has had women in leadership roles on and off the planet far longer than you have held your current position. And there have been women astronauts living, working and leading on spacecraft decades longer than your daughter has been alive. Why is she not inspired by that?"

Keith's note: I am not certain Marsha Ivins was listening to the same presentation I heard (see C-SPAN transcript below). For starters Dr. Mark and the other speakers had 3 minutes to make their points. Dr. Mark's commentary about differences in physiological responses to space travel based on gender is very real. Indeed, most of what she discussed had to do with physiology and human factors and how issues still remain to be addressed when planning long-term space missions. But Mark also spoke to the broader issue of diversity and the importance of making sure that when humans go into space that all of us are going.

Alas, Marsha Ivins seems to think that having women on space mission crews and in some leadership positions at NASA means that the whole diversity and gender equality thing is solved. It is not. Even the most cursory review of recent news stories will provide ample evidence of ongoing sexual harassment, pay disparities, imbalances in educational opportunities, and lingering paternalistic management practices within NASA, the aerospace industry, and the various scientific and academic institutions that make up the lager community that explorers space. But Marsha thinks that this was "hard to listen to because enough already!" Really Marsha?

Astronauts are special class of employees at NASA and often occupy a slightly strange position at the agency - one that is often isolated from reality. I know enough astronauts well enough to have seen this with my own eyes. In Ivins' case she saw diversity in space crews and says OK well we have diversity. Check that box. Next task. What about the rest of NASA, Marsha? In reality this most certainly is not the case across the agency and the aerospace industry and the scientific community as a whole.

Jim Bridenstine literally jumped out of the gate on his first day at NASA pledging to support diversity and equality at NASA. Bridenstine goes out of his way almost daily to talk about diversity and his personal commitment to enhancing equality. What does Marsha Ivins do? She crosses the line and dares to question the sincerity with which a father speaks of his own daughter's inspiration and future opportunities.

People look up to astronauts as role models. As such what does it say to people searching for guidance from an astronaut role model to see op eds with the words "I Can't Understand the Obsession With 'Gender Diverse' Space Crews" in the title? Such tone deaf and ill-informed comments do a disservice to everyone who strives to have a role in the exploration of space.

It's time for people like Marsha Ivins to descend from the former astronaut ivory towers and engage with the real world where pushing for more diversity and inclusion is never a bad thing to do. It will always be a work in progress. Contrary to what Ivins saw while wearing her flight suit there are 300 million people out there who live totally different lives - and they pay for this whole party in space. To them diversity and equality in opportunity matter. NASA succeeds best when all people can see themselves reflected in what NASA does.

Note: back in 2007 Marsha Ivins wanted to become a big time TV player in Hollywood. Have a look at her proposed project. At one point she says "I also understand that they should have access to a lot of stuff but do not get free reign to dig around in places we don't want them digging, and again since I have total control over the story line since there are only 2 of us writing it, we can guide the story." Hmmm ... "places we don't want them digging ..."

National Space Council Transcript of comments by Dr. Saralyn Mark 20 August 2019. Source: C-SPAN

Click to read

[APPLAUSE] >> VERY GOOD, THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH. DOCTOR MARK IS RECOGNIZED.

>> MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL SPACE COUNCIL, DISMISSED GUESTS, THANK YOU FOR THE INVITATION TO SPEAK TO YOU TODAY. AND GENDER IMPACT EVERY ASPECT OF OUR LIVES IN SPACE. IT IS MORE THAN SPACESUITS NOT FITTING FEMALE ASTRONAUTS. THE IMPACT FROM SHOES AND CLOTHING WE WEAR, ELECTRONIC DEVICES AND THE MEDICATIONS WE TAKE. MODIFYING APPEARANCES THROUGH GENDERED INNOVATION WILL NEVER WORK IN ANY ENVIRONMENT INCLUDING SPACE BATTLE FIELDS, AND IN OUR HOMES. THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF MEDICINE DEFINES GENDER AS A PERSON WHO SELF REPRESENTATION AS MALE OR FEMALE BASED ON SOCIAL INTERACTION AND IS BASED ON THIS, WE KNOW THE ENVIRONMENT CAN MODIFY GENE EXPRESSION WHICH IS CALLED EPIGENETIC, THAT IS THE COMPOSITION, MEN AND WOMEN ADAPT TO SPACE DIFFERENTLY WHERE EVEN SMALL DIFFERENCES SIGNIFICANTLY IMPACT THE QUALITY AND SAFETY OF LIFE INCLUDING ASTRONAUT WORK PERFORMANCE.

AND COMMERCIAL DOES ADDRESS THESE DIFFERENCES ON HOW THEY PLAN AND CONDUCT MISSIONS, DEVELOP PRODUCTS, HIGH PERFORMANCE CLOTHING INCLUDING LIQUID COOLING AND VENTILATION GARMENTS, TOOLS, HARDWARE AND MACHINES AND HOW THEY ESTABLISHED EXTRA VEHICULAR ACTIVITY FOR TRAINING PROTOCOLS. IT WAS RECOMMENDED NASA FULLY EVALUATED THE INFLUENCE GENDER HAS ON THE PHYSIOLOGICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CHANGES THAT OCCUR DURING SPACEFLIGHTS. IN RESPONSE NASA LAUNCH TWO REVIEWS ASSESS THE IMPACT, AND ADAPTATION TO SPACE IN 2002 AND IN 2012. EVERY SYSTEM IN THE BODY CHANGES IN THE MICROCOSM OF SPACE. IT HAS BEEN OBSERVED THAT SOME MALE AND FEMALE ASTRONAUTS EXPERIENCE SPACEFLIGHT ASSOCIATED NEUROLOGICAL OR SYNDROME ARE FOUND IN WHICH THERE IS VISUAL IMPAIRMENT AND INCREASE CRANIAL PRESSURE.

INTERESTINGLY THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS ARE MORE SEVERE IN MAIL ASTRONAUTS. AND THE INABILITY TO STAND WITHOUT FAINTING IS MORE PREVALENT UPON LANDING IN FEMALE ASTRONAUTS THAN THEIR FEMALE COUNTERPARTS. ADDITIONALLY REAL -- RADIATION IS A MAJOR HAZARD FOR SPACE TRAVEL. IT HAS BEEN RECORDED FEMALE SUBJECT TO MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO RADIATION-INDUCED CANCER THAN MALE SUBJECTS. AND THE EXPOSURE LIMITS FOR RADIATION AND THEN MEN ASTRONAUTS. THAT WILL IMPACT THEIR ABILITY TO PARTICIPATE IN LONG-DURATION SPACEFLIGHTS. THIS IS NOT ABOUT WHO IS FASTER, BETTER OR SMARTER, JUST DIFFERENT. WE HAVE THE CAPABILITY TO DEVELOP THE TOOLS AND RESOURCES TO ENSURE THAT EVERYONE HAS THE OPPORTUNITY TO LIVE AND WORK WELL ON EARTH AND IN SPACE.

MOST OF US WERE INFLUENCED BY THE APOLLO PROGRAM. AND IN THE COURSE IS OUR LIVES. WE NEED TO ENSURE THERE WILL BE AN ARTEMIS AFFECT. AND THE NEXT SUITS ON THE LETTER SURFACE WILL BE WORN BY WOMEN, NOT ONLY WILL IT FIT HER BUT ALSO INSPIRE THE NEXT GENERATION OF EXPLORERS. IT IS INTERESTING TO SEE THE GENDER SEX LENS. WHEN WE ACHIEVE THIS GOAL WE ARE TAKING A MAJOR LEAP TOWARD MISSION SUCCESS FOR EVERY ONE THAT WILL ENHANCE SPACE EXPLORATION AND DAILY LIVES. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND ATTENTION

  • submit to reddit


Loading



Global MilSatCom, November 5-7, 2019, London, UK






Monthly Archives

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on August 29, 2019 1:59 PM.

SpaceX Plans Orbital Flight Of Starship In A few Months was the previous entry in this blog.

United States Space Command Established is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.