Will gender bias follow us to Mars and beyond?
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Will gender bias follow us to Mars and beyond?

Last Updated Apr 3, 2019 at 12:51 pm ADT

Russian specialists help NASA astronaut Christina Koch testing a space suit during pre-launch dressing Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, 14 March 2019. (EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY)

It was supposed to be a historic moment—the first all-female spacewalk. And then it was cancelled, for reasons that only reinforced the need for it. But space is unforgiving, and the slightest slip can be fatal, so when a second suit in a woman’s size couldn’t be found, there was no other choice. Instead of a legendary achievement towards equality, the world got a good look at the challenges facing women in traditionally male-dominated fields.

It’s a problem that goes beyond spacesuits—but when physician and astronaut Shawna Pandya heard the news, she recognized a phenomenon she’d experienced everywhere in her career, from the operating room to a simulation of a mission to Mars. We used to say the world is made for men—does that apply to space, too? Even in 2019?

GUEST: Shawna Pandya, physician and citizen scientist-astronaut candidate

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