Mars Exchange
Four ways Mars One can attract women to its mission

Four ways Mars One can attract women to its mission

by Vince on Friday, 17th October 2014 in Expert Opinions, People, Rebecca Spyke Keiser, STEM

As a world-wide, nongovernmental venture, Mars One seeks to involve people from around the world in the settlement of Mars. But since women are usually underrepresented in space activities, Mars One may need to make extra efforts to involve women and gain their support. Rebecca Spyke Keiser, PhD, is Special Assistant to the NASA Administrator for Innovation and Public-Private Partnership. One of Keiser's initiatives at NASA has been to lead the agency's efforts to involve more girls and women in the study of science, technology, engineering, and math.

In a previous installment of Mars One Exchange, Why have fewer women been involved in space exploration?, Keiser discussed reasons women have been underrepresented in space exploration. In this installment, she answers the question, How can Mars One involve more women in space?

“A lot needs to be done to improve the involvement of women in space exploration, and Mars One has great potential for many reasons. When girls and women see that other females are volunteering, supporting, and hopefully being the participants who actually go on the mission, it shouldn't be 'look how special, we have a woman as part of a Mars mission.' It should just be natural, a part of the way things should be."

“Another way is that there is a special appeal of people’s real-life stories. Government space programs feature videos of big rockets, fire, smoke, technical design, and all of that. But the more that Mars One can highlight the people who are in the mission, the more women and girl supporters they will capture. Televising Mars One will be a great benefit, as we connect to others, their stories, and their challenges."

“NASA did some survey and found that the group least supportive of space exploration was mothers of young children—women in the 30-40 year old age bracket. These women are very concerned about the benefits to their children of any public investment. Space seems like this expensive thing; we should be prioritizing health care, things beneficial to people on earth. So a third way Mars One can appeal to women is to emphasize both the inspirational as well as tangible benefits of exploration. Imagine what we can learn about human physiology, psychology, aging! Imagine what we can learn about growing and cultivating in outer space that could lend itself to extreme environments here on Earth. These messages would appeal to that sector of the population. Mars One can also make specific outreach to women and girls at organizations that serve females, such as Girl Scouts."

“Finally, Mars One can appeal to the values of today's younger generation. I did some analysis recently on changing values. The Apollo Missions generation shared a Cold War ethos, where we viewed the world as good or bad and came to fear technology because of the threat of atomic weapons. Today our worldview is more collaborative, and so younger generations will really welcome looking at the training of Mars One mission teams."

“Mars One captures the great ethos of space today—that space is for everyone. By getting inside the mission, the story, and the folks who are on the mission, Mars One will appeal to everyone—but especially young people, girls, and women—in a way that previous efforts have not.”

Tell us what you think. Should Mars One increase actively increase the involvement of women in space exploration? How?

Story contributed by Vincent Hyman, a writer and Mars One volunteer living in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. 

Photo credits header image:

Left: NASA / Bill Ingalls
Right: NASA

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