Why Aren’t There Any Openly Gay Astronauts?


Floating freely on the flight deck, Sally Ride communicates with ground controllers in Houston during her STS-7 mission in June 1983.

Credit: NASA

Three hundred and thirty American men and women have served as astronauts since the start of NASA’s human spaceflight program. Only one is publicly known to have been gay or bisexual — Sally Ride — and she kept it private until her death, yesterday (July 23), when her obituary on the Sally Ride Science organization’s website stated that Ride was survived by Tam O’Shaughnessy, her « partner of 27 years. »

As the first American woman in space and a scientist, Ride served as a role model for generations of young girls. Now, she’ll serve as a role model for LGBT youth as well, said her sister, Bear Ride. « I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them, » Bear Ride, who identifies as gay, told Buzzfeed yesterday.

Gay rights advocates say Sally Ride’s addition to the ranks of LGBT role models will make a tremendous impact. « Role models are incredibly valuable for everyone, but I think especially for LGBT youth, who may be born into a family where they don’t have an LGBT role model. It is so important for them to look out into the world and see they could be welcome in that world, » Stuart Gaffney, media director at Marriage Equality USA, told SPACE.com. « Sally Ride will be that for them now. »


Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin concurred, telling Buzzfeed, « The fact that Sally Ride was a lesbian will further help round out Americans’ understanding of the contributions of LGBT Americans to our country. » [Astronaut Sally Ride: In Her Own Words]

Ride’s decision to keep her sexual orientation private reflects her very private nature, sources said. But the lack of even one openly gay or lesbian astronaut in the history of American spaceflight may reflect the culture at the NASA astronaut office. Although NASA does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, Michael Cassutt, author of five books and hundreds of articles about human spaceflight, said coming out would until recently have been « a career-wrecker » for an astronaut. « Not for any formal reason, but in the same way that any medical issue or even some kind of notoriety has been an astronaut career-wrecker, » Cassutt told SPACE.com.

« Any issue that detracts from the mission is or has been the kind of thing an astronaut wants to avoid. It isn’t NASA politics; it is NASA politics as practiced at the astronaut office, » Cassutt said, adding that the office has often resembled a « military squadron. »

A NASA spokesman told SPACE.com that astronauts decide for themselves what to reveal about their private lives.

« Certainly we try to be open with their professional activities and beyond that what they reveal privately is pretty much up to them, » said the spokesman, who asked not to be named. Still, the fact remains that no astronauts have ever come out as gay or lesbian, while many astronauts include mention of their husbands, wives or children on their NASA official biography pages. (As of today, Ride’s NASA bio page was updated to mention that she is survived by her mother, with no mention of her partner.)

Cassutt said even though he suspects there are or have been some other gay or lesbian astronauts, and in spite of the progress made on LGBT issues, « I don’t expect anyone in the current corps to be ‘out’ any time soon, assuming anyone is gay. »

The implication is that even in 2012, a same-sex orientation could still earn an astronaut unwanted notoriety that would detract from a mission. Robert Pearlman, space historian and founding editor of collectSPACE.com (a SPACE.com partner site), said the choice to shield one’s sexuality « unfortunately cannot yet be labeled ‘behind the times.’ While there are a great many more people who are openly gay today, we are not yet to a point of universal acceptance, » he noted.

There is also the fact that 219 of the 330 current and former astronauts served in the military, according to NASA. The U.S. military operated under a « don’t ask, don’t tell » (DADT) policy from 1993 until 2011, under which gay and lesbian servicemen and women had to remain closeted or risk expulsion. The repeal of DADT last year allowed gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military for the first time in history.

Of NASA’s continued culture of no one asking and no one telling, Gaffney of Marriage Equality USA said, « Ultimately, it’s a culture that needs to and will change. Harvey Milk said, ‘Come out, come out, wherever you are.’ The point being that the world needs to know, and LGBT youth need to see, that we really are everywhere and that includes people in every walk of life. Some professions have been quicker to change than others. Every profession is going to change. And the news this week about Sally Ride is just one more example of that. »

He added, « It will be part of her legacy that change will come to her profession as well. »






The Universe Has a Lot More Huge Stars Than Scientists Thought

A surprisingly large number of massive stars have been spotted in regions across the universe, shedding new light on how galaxies near and far evolve, a new study shows. By Samantha Mathewson | SPACE.com In the study, astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile investigated intense bouts of star formation in four […]

via The Universe Has a Lot More Huge Stars Than Scientists Thought — Brights – Die Natur des Zweifels

‘Flames and Smoke Everywhere.’ Police Release 911 Calls From Deadly Military Plane Crash in Georgia

(SAVANNAH) — In frantic calls to 911, witnesses reported a fiery tragedy that dropped suddenly from above: a military cargo plane, one of its engines apparently not working, crashing nose-first onto a Georgia highway and raining flaming debris onto the blacktop. “I’ve got flames and smoke everywhere and stuff coming out of the sky,” one…

via ‘Flames and Smoke Everywhere.’ Police Release 911 Calls From Deadly Military Plane Crash in Georgia — TIME

Major Arctic Warming Event Predicted For the Coming Week

It’s been consistently, abnormally, warm in the Arctic for about as long as any of us can remember. But during recent years, the changes — caused by a massive and ongoing accumulation of heat-trapping gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere — appear to be speeding up. (Far above normal temperatures are expected to invade the Arctic […]

via Major Arctic Warming Event Predicted For the Coming Week — robertscribbler

Central American Migrants Who Reached the Border by Caravan Have Started Seeking U.S. Asylum

(TIJUANA, Mexico) — Central Americans who traveled in a caravan through Mexico to the border with San Diego began turning themselves to U.S. authorities to seek asylum Monday in a direct challenge to the Trump administration. Nearly 200 migrants, many traveling with children, decided to apply for protection at the nation’s busiest border crossing after…

via Central American Migrants Who Reached the Border by Caravan Have Started Seeking U.S. Asylum — TIME

%d blogueurs aiment cette page :