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In 1964, Lovelace’s Women in Space Program was given the shaft after a paper written by a couple dudes who felt their masculinity being threatened stated that women shouldn’t go to space because, well... Periods. They convinced NASA that putting a hormonal woman in control of a “complicated machine” was a bad idea; that somehow, women free bleeding in zero gravity would be detrimental to the galaxy as a whole. There was also talk of “retrograde menstruation," a completely made up condition that would cause blood to flow up the fallopian tubes and pool in the abdomen, leading to pain and a plethora of other unforeseeable conditions. Of course, none of this research was ever proven, but was still used as viable evidence that putting a lady in space could only lead to catastrophe and kept women out of the skies for decades.

Almost 20 years later, in 1983, Sally Ride was to be the first American women in space and there were a lot of questions about exactly how she would handle her space menstruation. She recalls the engineers preparing for her one-week flight asking if 100 tampons was the “right number," to which she stone-facedly replied, “No, that is not the right number.” Ride’s tampons became Kardashian-like famous. They were reported on, weighed, and even sniffed – to determine if deodorized brands would be too overwhelming in the craft.

Since Ride’s heroic space period, many women have followed in her footsteps to bleed in space and they’ve found that it’s not much different from bleeding on Earth. Since the waste disposal system on a spacecraft isn’t enabled to handle blood and changing a tampon in zero gravity can get a little tricky, most astroladies actually opt to pause their flows for their interstellar travels.

In Microgravity, a journal published this week by space gynocologist Dr. Varsha Jain and space pharmacologist Virginia Wotring, they discuss some options available to ladies with an eye on the sky. While most women take oral contraceptives, just skipping over the placebo week, packing for a longer journey (like a three-year trip to Mars and back) can add complication. Every ounce matters when packing up a rocket destined for space, and the addition of the 1,100 pills per woman required for a three-year trip just isn’t feasible. While there has been some concern about the practicality of an IUD or hormonal implant in such extreme conditions, Jain and Wotring say that it’s impossible to know for sure until it’s done.

Though there are still many unknowns surrounding space and space travel there is one thing Sally Ride has made very clear, “Period in space, just like period on the ground. Don’t worry about it.”

Photo: Kaleigh Wright


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Tags: space , period , tampons