The First Woman on the Moon

Marianne Dyson, April 2017

Russia is selecting six to eight new cosmonauts this year. The March 14 Roscosmos press release said, “They will be the first pilots of Russia’s future spacecraft Federatsiya (“Federation”). All will be trained under the International Space Program and will be the first Russians to fly to the Moon.”

Will one of these new recruits be the first woman on the Moon?

The Russians proudly claimed the first woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova in June of 1963), the first female spacewalker (Svetlana Savitskaya in August 1982), and the first woman to make a long duration flight (Elena Kondakova in 1994). They have only flown one other woman to date, Yelena Serova (on Expeditions 41/42 from September 2014 to March 2015) who is not expected to fly again. There are currently no female cosmonauts.

But if the new cosmonaut class has women, it may signal Russia’s intent to lay claim to the first woman to fly by the Moon and land on it. Given funding constraints, analysts predict a flyby (in their Federation) no sooner than 2023, with a human landing (using their PTK-L) no sooner than 2030.

NASA has 14 female astronauts and will (supposedly) choose more this summer. Orion on top of the new SLS booster is scheduled for a crewed circumlunar test flight (EM-2) in 2021 which might be moved up to 2019 on EM-1. But to land an American woman on the Moon, NASA would need to fund and develop a new vehicle, such as the Altair lunar lander cancelled in 2010.

Artist’s rendering of Altair lunar lander on the surface of the Moon. (NASA image JSC2007-E-113280 Dec. 2007)

Perhaps ESA could help? They are already providing the service module for Orion. In 2016 they unveiled a vision for an international collaboration to build a Moon Village by 2030 using huge 3D printers. To realize this vision, they need partners. If not NASA or Roscosmos, maybe they will work with SpaceX?

Elon Musk announced that two people have reserved a SpaceX flight around the Moon in 2018 using his Falcon 9 heavy and Dragon capsule. The gender of the SpaceX clients is unknown. Could one of them be the first woman to reach the Moon? SpaceX plans to test a human-capable lander on Mars in 2018. Could it be adapted for the Moon in time to celebrate the Apollo 11 60th anniversary in 2029?

The Chinese have flown six human spaceflights (11 taikonauts, 2 women) starting in 2003, and plan a permanently staffed space station in 2022. They have mapped the Moon with orbiters and landed a rover on the surface that hibernated through 32 lunar nights using plutonium heaters. Chang’E-5 (named after the Chinese Moon goddess) is scheduled to launch in late 2017 and return the first lunar sample since the Russian Luna 24 in 1976. Their official news agency announced a goal of landing humans on the Moon between 2031 and 2036. Thanks to stable multi-year funding and political support, the Chinese have met all their official milestones and are just as likely to meet this one.

So who will be the first woman to walk on another world? Will we call her First Woman like we call Neil Armstrong First Man? What will her first words be and in what language?

Regardless of where she is from or what she says, I know what my response will be: “It’s about time!”

Speaking about Space

I’d love to share space with you! Invite me to speak to your school, conference, or library. I offer short programs and STEM workshops for adults, kids, and mixed audiences. Dyson Author Visits.

Wednesday, April 12. 6-10 PM. Yuri’s Night & STS-1 Anniversary Party hosted by Clear Lake Area National Space Society & Moon Society. Held at the “party palace” (a member’s home) in Nassau Bay. To RSVP & get directions, email to Donations for food & beverages appreciated.

Thursday, April 27, 7PM Deer Park Public Library. Presenting “A Passion for Space.” Free, open to the public. Books will be offered for sale afterwards.

Saturday, May 6, 10 AM to 4 PM, Workshops for Writers. Morning: Write a Short Story in a Day. Afternoon: How to Publish a Book. Location: Southwestern Presbyterian Church in Bellaire. Cost is $30/$35 for either session or $50/$60 for both for members/nonmembers of Houston Writers House.

Saturday, May 13. Comicpalooza at George Brown Convention Center, Houston. Moderating Literary Track panel on Creative Collaborations from 2:30-3:30 & signing books at the Barnes & Noble booth in the exhibit room 4-4:45 PM.

Writing about Space

My novelette, “Europa’s Survivors,” with a strong female lead character, is in the March/April issue of Analog Science Fiction magazine.

My article “Terraforming Mars: Could We? Should We?” is in the spring issue of Ad Astra magazine published by the National Space Society.