Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

An all-female mission to Mars

In 2013 it was the first time women made 50% of the NASA astronaut candidate class, knowing this should NASA push this even further? Should the first human mars mission be all female?


A lot of us might want to become an astronaut but lot of factors disqualify you before you even get started. Including currently you have to be between 4’11 (4 feet 11 inches) and 6’3 (6 feet 3 inches).

Many people think that the biggest physiologically concern with astronauts in space is bone loss, but according to a 2014 NASA study our current physiologically biggest concern with astronauts right now is vision impairment. Several male astronauts have experienced permanent vision problems often accompanied by anatomical changes to the eye both during and after a space mission; all of them were in space for only 6 months. This is a lot less time compared to a mars mission which consists of 8 months on zero gravity each way. The exact cause of the vision impairment is not really understood yet, but we do know is that so far no women have experienced lasting vision issues. Since vision is a very important factor on a mars mission this a point to an all-female mars mission.

You might ask that is there areas that women do worse than men? The answer is yes. Let’s have a look at the same 2014 NASA study.

  • Women are more prone to space motion sickness when they first hit zero gravity, but that goes away.
  • Women suffer from more urinary tract infection , but this can be treated by antibiotics
  • Women faint more easily if they stand up too fast, when they come back to earth after a space flight, this might not be a big problem on Martian gravity as it is weaker then earth’s gravity, but of course still unclear.
  • Women have twice the chance of radiation induced cancer than men; this is a reason why NASA only let women half as much time as men with their lifetime space flight. But this can be one of those things that have to be solved for everyone in order to be able to send anyone to mars.



It looks like women have a slight physiological advantage then men. But let’s say nothing we have said is true. There is another argument preferring women than men to send them on longer space mission, namely it is cheaper to send women rather than men to mars. This is due to food, while it is possible to recycle air and water, you would need to take all the food with you to mars. This is even true if you manage to grow your own food on mars. Now it turns out that women need to eat less food to be able to do the same activities as men. Therefore meaning that there would be less mass to transport, less propellant, thus meaning lower costs. Kate Greene wrote an article on this, Greene was one of six volunteers ( 3 male 3 female) at “HI-SEAS” a NASA funded enclosed habitat in Hawaii that simulates the same condition as of a mars mission. Greene noticed that the women in her    co-horde noticed that the women consumed half as much calories as that on the men, despite comparable activity and exercise. This could save NASA billions of dollars because they would need less fuel, with this extra billions of dollars that NASA has they could do other things to make the mars mission even more successful.

Author Kate Greene during a mock Mars mission.

Author Kate Greene during a mock Mars mission.

In conclusion do you think an all-female astronaut team should be sent to mars first? Because the first mars mission really needs to succeed.






2014 NASA study: The Impact of Sex and Gender on Adaptation to Space


Article by Kate Greene:  an all-female mission to mars


Mars picture


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This entry was posted on May 8, 2016 by in Burwood - Friday 10am and tagged , , .

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