SPANner Studies the Role of Women in the Soviet Space Race

Written and Produced by Meg Foster, Russia 2017

During the time I spent in Russia, I visited many scientific institutions, interviewed 16 distinguished scientists, and explored numerous museums, palaces, parks, and libraries.  The entire experience was well orchestrated and I enjoyed the freedom that the SPAN program offered.  For this student of astrophysics and physics, SPAN’s flexibility, along with the responsibility required of students, allowed me to make the most of my experience from the beginning to the end.

Kelley Paredes, Meg Foster, and Madeline Reid at the circus in Moscow.
Meg conducting research
Meg meeting Tim O’Connor, Ph.D., Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs at the National University of Science and Technology in Moscow

My paper, “Soviet Space Race Propaganda: Women in Space and the Status of Women in Science,” tied together many aspects of women in science, ranging from the initial inclusion of women in scientific fields at the end of the nineteenth century all the way to 2014, when the fourth Russian woman was sent to Space.  It also incorporates personal quips regarding my perspective as a woman studying astrophysics.

Meg poses at the Moscow Museum of Cosmonauts

After SPAN ended and my paper was printed, I felt a great sense of accomplishment.  I enjoyed the process, but I wanted to see what else I could “get out of it.”  Thankfully, I was invited to present my research project at the University of Minnesota’s Space Physics Research seminar this fall.  It was well attended, and I was excited to share my work.  Recently, I shared my work at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, Minnesota, for a “Cultural Thursday” presentation.

Meg at the monument to Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human to travel into space (1961)
Meg in a tub designed to simulate space-like weightlessness