'Women in Space' Provokes Enlightening Conversation

Oct 17, 2014

WKAR Community Cinema returned this season on Oct. 10 with an enlightening conversation spurred from the new documentary, "Makers: Women in Space." 

Panelists (l-r) Megan Donahue and Melanie Cooper
Credit Amanda Pinckney / WKAR-MSU

In partnership with Project 60/50 at Michigan State University, the evening included a short preview of the film followed by a conversation with panelists Megan Donahue, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy; and Melanie Cooper, Lappan-Phillips professor of the Department of Chemistry.

"Makers: Women in Space" chronicles the crucial and often unsung role women have played in the U.S. space program. It takes both a look back as well as a glimpse forward to the important role women will play in the future of this field; a future that many in the audience agreed called for further awareness and improvement of gender equality.

"I really enjoyed [tonight]," said WKAR member Mara Stein of East Lansing, "it's a really important topic."

Stein is referring to the part of the night's conversation that focused on the lack of an accurate depiction of women in history. Unlike common history books, the film tells the story of women in the U.S. space program in 1957, as the United States raced to beat the Soviet Union at sending a human into orbit. Thirteen women were included in NASA’s initial tests to select America’s first astronauts and the rigorous testing proved that women were ready to go into space. But America wasn’t yet ready to put women into space.

"I think it's an important piece of history people have forgotten about," said panelist Cooper, "and the problems those women faced back then, they haven't really gone away."

Glenda Andre
Credit Amanda Pinckney / WKAR-MSU

The film illustrated the many firsts for women in NASA, such as Sally Ride becoming the first woman to launch into space in 1983. Now that women are in space there continues to be room for improvement, not just in NASA, but encompassing all fields.

  "It's fascinating to see it is slowly changing in other fields," said Glenda Andre of Lansing, "but it's also more of the same-old, same-old."

Taking part in the encouraging that change is WKAR Community Cinema by offering the opportunity for an educational conversation amongst the community. It is here that, as Stein said, "…we start to change the culture."

For a limited time, watch the full documentary at video.wkar.org