Mars-500 is officially underway as of yesterday, with the crew secluded until November 2011. It is disappointing, though, that no women are participating – “Discrimination row after Russia ‘bans’ women from 18-month mock mission to Mars” suggests that they were unofficially banned for fears of repeating the SFINCSS-99 experiment. The decision has received criticism from various experts.
“The absence of women in Mars-500 Project yet again proves the presence on old-fashioned Earthly gender stereotypes,” complained Mikhail Salkin of the Moscow Human Rights Protection Centre. “The organisers were likely set on choosing men from the start. We suspect the endurance tests they set were more suitable to men than women, and the results will be a biased judgement because it will only apply to males, so will not fit the full picture. “Women should have equal access to any job so we are ready to apply to the Russian General Prosecutor on this and ask him to investigate. The organisers have also forgotten the social tension they can face among six men which might have been softened by having a woman on board.”
Psychiatrist Egor Rozenkov warned single sex isolation was “more dangerous” than sending a mixed group. “There is a lot of psychological and psychiatric evidence about the social pathologies that develop in isolated male groups, like in jails, the army or schools. “And don’t forget about the danger of sexual inversion. From the point of view of the health of the crew it will be a huge mistake to ‘send’ not a mixed but an all-male crew.”
Soyuz TMA-17 landed on 2 June with ISS-22/23. TMA-19 will launch on 15 June with ISS-24/25.