Sexism Limited Female Space Flights – Russian Cosmonaut

MOSCOW, June 14 (RIA Novosti) – Russian women rarely go into space because Russian men fear that their heroism would be diminished if shared with members of the opposite sex, scientist and former cosmonaut Yelena Dobrokvashina said Friday, while she also denied rumors that female cosmonauts have tried to conceive when orbiting the Earth.

Since the Soviet Union sent the first woman into space half a century ago, only two Russian women have followed in her footsteps – compared with more than 50 from the United States.

“It is, of course, linked with the peculiarities of our mentality,” Dobrokvashina said at a press conference dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the first female spaceflight. “Although they always said that everyone was equal – men and women – it’s no secret that we live in a man’s world.”

Women were expected to leave the high-profile jobs to the men, she said. “There was an opinion that men were scared that if women were to go into space … [the men’s] aura of heroism would be lost.”

Dobrokvashina trained as a cosmonaut in the early 1980s but never had the chance to fly in space. She is now a medical expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, will mark the 50th anniversary of her pioneering flight on June 16. She said last week that the lack of female cosmonauts was linked to a series of unlucky coincidences, technical problems and a desire to protect women from accidents.

At the conference on Friday, Dobrokvashina denied rumors that female cosmonauts in the Soviet Union were required to “perform experiments” to see whether they could conceive in outer space.

“I think that to create a new person in the inhospitable environment [of space] – with its weightlessness and high radiation levels – is inhuman,” she said. “Even in concentration camps, they probably wouldn’t have done that.”

Dobrokvashina also said that, while the conditions in space affect men and women in similar ways, women may actually make better cosmonauts than men.

“It’s easier for men to survive physical challenges and short-lived stress, but nature made women for long, slow and tedious work – for slow and meditative work,” she said.

Dobrokvashina trained alongside Svetlana Savitskaya, who became the second Russian woman to go into space in 1982. The third and last Russian woman in space, Yelena Kondakova, worked aboard the International Space Station for five months in 1994-95.


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