Here’s why women may be the best suited for spaceflight

Physically and mentally, women have the right stuff for expeditions into deep space. So why send male astronauts at all?

If you’re packing for an interplanetary space mission—one that’s very long and might involve populating a faraway world—sending an all-female astronaut crew could be an intelligent choice.

Before you raise an eyebrow at the prospect, remember that NASA recruited and flew only all-male crews for decades. In fact, in the 58 years that Earthlings have launched humans into orbit, about 11 percent of them—63 individuals—have been women.

“An all-female mission tends to be something that NASA has avoided in assignments because it seems like a stunt,” says Margaret Weitekamp, a curator at the National Air and Space Museum. But in some ways, women are potentially better suited for space travel than men.

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