Mariner 10's first image of Mercury from 3 million+ miles_Photo by NASA
Sustainable Development Goals

WOMEN IN SPACE

Humans have been flying in space since 1961, with the first women launching off our planet back in 1963. But according to the United Nations (UN), the number of women employed in the space industry represents just 20 percent of the workforce.

  • Text:Laura Helene Sletbakk

    Photo:Photos by NASA

Overall, the number of women in the space industry have fluctuated at around 20 percent for at least 30 years - Linn Merete Sandvold is one of those 20 percent.

“Space has always fascinated me, and I believe that space products are among the most complex and exciting things to work with,” says Sandvold, Project Manager Space & Surveillance, Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace (KONGSBERG), when asked about why she wanted to work in the space-industry.

Photo: Private

Gender inequality is a long-standing and widespread issue in education and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields, both in developed and developing countries. This week we celebrate World Space Week 2021 and those 20 percent: Women in Space.

WOMEN IN SPACE

Before there were computers, there were “human computers” and these human computers were women. Several of the NASA researchers who made space flight possible were women. Among them were black women who played critical roles in the aeronautics industry.

Since 1963, women have gone on to set records in the space industry, with NASA aiming to land the first woman on the moon by 2024 under the Artemis program. So far, only 11 percent of astronauts have been women.

Photo: NASA Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Credit: NASA

“I was very curious about space as a child, and wanted to become an astronaut, but was told that I could not because I had asthma. But I did seriously considering applying for the European Space Agency’s astronaut position about 6 months ago, but after discussing it with my partner, I realized that it would be terrible staying away from my 18-month-old-boy,” explains the KONGSBERG Project Manager when asked about space and her childhood dreams.

It is important to encourage young girls and women to enter the field of science, which is still a male-dominated sphere, because it is so much more than one might think.

“Space has always fascinated me, and I believe that space products are among the most complex and exciting things to work with,” says Sandvold. “After only working in KONGSBERG’s Space & Surveillance division for about 10 months, I have learned that space is way more than just planets and stars. Space is used in a variety of experiments within pharmaceutics, biomedicine, biology and physical science. I could not imagine the pharmaceutical industry benefiting from space?!”

SUSTAINABILITY GOALS

According to the UN, to succeed in addressing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the world must ensure that the benefits of space reach women and girls, and that women and girls play an active and equal role in space science, technology, innovation, and exploration.

The World Space Week Association (WSWA) began in 1980 as the coordinator of “Spaceweek,” a celebration of the first Moon landing, each July 16-24. In 1981, “Spaceweek National Headquarters” was formed to organize a nationwide celebration in the United States. The United Nations General Assembly declared World Space Week in 1999. And by that year, Spaceweek had spread to over 15 nations.

WSWA offered to the UN to serve as global coordinator of World Space Week, and helped organize the first such celebration in 2000. The annual celebration of World Space Week is now under the guidance of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) based in Vienna, Austria.

This year, the international celebration of science and technology is bringing people together from around the world to celebrate women in space with a variety of online events and interactive learning activities

KONGSBERG’s SPACE DIVISION

To succeed in addressing Sustainable Development Goals 4, 5 and 9, it is important that women and girls play an active and equal role in space industry. Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace encourages women and girls to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics degrees and education. We want to raise awareness about career opportunities in our Space & Surveillance division, and the importance of gender equality and empowerment in the space sector, and as a result of this the management team consists of 50% women.

Our Space and Surveillance division delivers a broad spectrum of equipment, systems and services to space customers in more than 40 countries. The portfolio of the division includes equipment and components for the European heavy-lift launchers Ariane 5 & 6, equipment for communication, navigation, earth observation satellites as well as scientific space probes and space exploration.

Want to know more about our Space & Surveillance division, or see if you got what it takes to work in the space-industry? Visit our info and career-pages at www.kongsberg.com/space