Karen Greene, one of the six people who lived in a simulated Mass camp on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano for four months, says the first visitors to the Red Planet should be women. The “astronauts” lived as colonists on Mars, replicating all aspects of the real experience, from donning spacesuits every time they left the camp to exercising, eating, and conducting mock experiments. Studying the eating and sleeping habits of the six participants, Greene found that the men ate more than the women, yet had a harder time maintaining their weight than the women did.
“Even though all crew members, got the same amount of exercise, the men would burn about 3,000 calories a day while the women burned approximately 2,000,” Greene said. Women typically have a smaller body mass, which gives them another advantage on a spacecraft. If an astronaut needs more food, the cost of a mission rises higher. It also increases the weight of the spacecraft, which in-turn increases the amount of fuel required to send that spacecraft into orbit or interplanetary space.
“It is thus a vicious cycle; a higher amount of fuel requires a heavier rocket for launch, which then requires more additional fuel,” Greene said. NASA researcher Harry Jones, who has addressed these issues in a published paper, downplayed matters of body size and gender, saying astronaut selection should focus on “crew performance, including group dynamics, individual psychology, etc.”
“It’s not really politically correct to mention that size, body type, gender, intelligence, agility, emotional structure, education, and other individual differences might all effect the cost-benefit quotation in astronaut selection,” Jones said.
Researching the issue of women in space, Greene discovered that NASA did train women astronauts during the 1960s but dismissed them from the program in spite of their successful performance.