Last Man On The Moon, For Now

Geek Culture

Apollo 17 (image via NASA, public domain)Apollo 17 (image via NASA, public domain)

Apollo 17 (image via NASA, public domain)

Thirty-seven years ago today, December 18, 1972, Eugene Cernan stepped into Apollo 17′s Challenger lunar module and became the last man to set foot on the moon. With Charlie Bolden, Lori Garver, and the Obama administration weighing the options for the future of America’s role in human spaceflight (unless Congress decides for them first) it may be at least a decade or more before humans tromp around the lunar regolith again.

But, when the time comes to place a group of homo sapiens on top of a rocket with the goal of launching them onto the Moon’s orbit, one thing is guaranteed: the trip out to lunar space will not be a mancation.

NASA could have broken the gender barrier years earlier than it did with the WISP program. However, it was not until eleven years after Apollo 17 that Sally Ride became the first American woman astronaut. She was followed shortly thereafter by Judith Resnick, Kathryn Sullivan, Anna Fisher, and a whole host of women pilots, scientists, and specialists turned astronaut.

Since then, women have played a prominent role in America’s space program. Most of the space shuttle flights have had lady astronauts aboard, serving as scientists, specialists, and commanders. Women have commanded the International Space Station and in NASA’s most recent astronaut group, three of the nine selections were women.

Image: NASA (public domain)Image: NASA (public domain)

Sally Ride (image via NASA, public domain)

So it stands to reason that as we train the next batch of astronauts, those that will be first in line for the next beyond-LEO mission, there will be a nice mix of gender diversity in the space capsule.

But, the road for future women astronauts is still a rough path. Take my 10 year old daughter for instance. She is the only girl on the Lego robotics club and the only one on the math team. Sometimes it can be lonely for a girl that runs with the geek crowd.

Many colleges, universities, and other organizations are putting on the full court press to keep girls interested in math and the sciences beyond elementary school. With NASA contemplating a reinvigorated human spaceflight program, here’s to the great success of those efforts. We’ll need it to keep the pool of potential women astronaut full.

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