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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Roscosmos Sets Sights on Creating Female Crew of Cosmonauts

Russian cosmonaut Yelena Serova, Expedition 41 flight engineer, works with test samples from the Kaskad cell cultivation experiment in a glovebox in the Poisk Mini-Research Module 2 (MRM2) of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Russia’s state-run space corporation, Roscosmos, is putting together a team of female cosmonauts to conduct flights into outer space, and a search for candidates will be launched among space experts, a source in the rocket and space industry told TASS on Monday.

"A full-fledged cosmonaut team consisting of young women who are specialists in the rocket and space field will be formed," the source said. The state corporation will take on the initiative to search for candidates itself rather than wait for them to sign up.

The Orlan spacesuit used for spacewalks will be upgraded for women, he added. "Elements of an exoskeleton will be installed on the space suit to strengthen the operator’s hands when performing physically demanding work outside the spaceship, especially outside the International Space Station," the source said. An effort to create electric motors for Orlan’s hands is underway.

The female crew will be also trained for future missions to the Moon, he noted.

Roscosmos was planning to announce the creation of a female crew on Monday at the Cosmonaut Training Center on the outskirts of Moscow. On January 21, the center hosted a ceremony to meet the crew of ISS Expedition 55/56: Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos, and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, who returned to the Earth on October 4, 2018 aboard the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.

Women did not join the new space crew, which was formed in summer 2018. Some specialists later attributed this to a specific national mindset and far less women aspiring to become cosmonauts. Any Russian citizen not older than 35 years with a higher education in engineering, or in the scientific and flight sectors and with work experience was able to toss their hat into the ring, but only male candidates were selected.

Only four women have traveled into orbit in the history of Soviet and Russian space exploration: Valentina Tereshnkova, Svetlana Savitskaya, Yelena Kondakova and Yelena Serova. Meanwhile, NASA has sent 47 women into space.

Credit: TASS

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