At this very moment, six Russian women are locked in a mock spaceship on a mission to the moon, being closely observed for physical and psychological changes.
The women, all scientists, are part of an eight-day isolation experiment known as Moon-2015, that is being conducted by the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The agency is seeking to understand how women’s bodies respond when subjected to deep-space conditions over a long duration. According to Roscosmos, the findings gleaned during this experiment may help provide the foundations for a 2029 moon mission helmed by an all-female crew.
Russia was responsible for sending the first woman into space—Valentina Tereshkova, who piloted Vostok 6 in 1963—but until now had devoted little time to researching best practices for women into space. The cosmos-crazy country seems to be making up for that oversight now. According to the Guardian, Roscosmos stated that the main objective of the current simulated mission is to “test the psychology and physiology of the female organism.”
The half-dozen female organisms—otherwise known as human scientists Yelena Luchitskaya, Darya Komissarova, Polina Kuznetsova, Anna Kussmaul, Inna Nosikova, and Tatyana Shiguyeva—will conduct about 30 experiments while in fake space. They have been in their spacecraft since 11 a.m. Moscow time on Wednesday. The Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) is monitoring them along the way.
“We believe women might not only be no worse than men at performing certain tasks in space, but actually better,” said Sergei Ponomarev, the scientific director of Moon-2015. IBMP director Igor Ushakov had his own well wishes for the experiment crew: “I’d like to wish you a lack of conflicts, even though they say that in one kitchen, two housewives find it hard to live together.”
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