Highlights from an Emmy-winning virtual reality experience celebrate the women who live and work in space.
“Women in Spaceflight” launched Wednesday, March 8 on Meta Quest to focus on female astronauts who were featured in the four-part “Space Explorers: The ISS Experience,” which was released in 2020. The series attracted viewers. Canadian creators Felix & Paul Studios a Primetime Emmy Award in 2021 for Outstanding Interactive Program.
The free mini-VR experience, available here (opens in a new tab), launched to coincide with International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month; the latter runs for the month of March.
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Related: International Space Station Facts, History and Tracking
The astronauts themselves shot the footage on the International Space Station using specially designed cameras that allowed virtual reality users to rotate their view in real time as a story unfolded in the helmet. A central focus point is also available for people watching on flat screens.
Prominent women featured include aviator and Mercury 13 participant Jerrie Cobb; NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, who performed the first all-female spacewalk in 2019; and NASA astronaut Anne McClain, one of the few known LGBTQ+ astronauts.
“My favorite part of ‘Women in Spaceflight’ is Anne McClain’s mother asking if the kids and teachers who made fun of her dream of becoming an astronaut worked at NASA – because if they didn’t, then their opinion just didn’t matter,” Katarina Soukup, vice president of production at Felix & Paul Studios, said in a blog post. (opens in a new tab).
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McClain said his approach was to keep applying for an astronaut position until NASA says “no” to him definitively, Soukup said, adding that the anecdote was a good example of the “power to reduce the noise and opponents”.
While Soukup said women astronauts themselves don’t want to “focus on achieving historic milestones because that could mean compromising safety,” she said women will achieve more spaceflight as more types of recruitment will diversify. For example, in October 2022, Nicole Mann became the first Native American woman to reach space. Mann, a member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian tribes in northern California, arrived at the ISS as part of SpaceX’s Crew-5 mission, which will return to Earth this weekend.
NASA has 73 female astronauts who flew in March 2023, but the number increases when considering suborbital travel. The total number of people in space is over 600, again varying depending on the flights counted. The vast majority of flights were performed by white men, largely because NASA and other agencies were bringing in the military, but that has rapidly changed in recent decades amid global efforts to increase diversity .
Elizabeth Howell is co-author of “Why am I taller (opens in a new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book on space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or Facebook (opens in a new tab).