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The pink running shoes: daily life on ISS

This post was born as a response to a question sent in by Carla regarding how female astronauts deal with their menstrual cycle during long duration mission in space. There are no rules that require or, on the contrary, prohibit to suppress the menstrual cycle during a space mission. To tell you the truth not even mere recommendations exist: every astronaut decides freely according to their preference. It is of course a good idea to inform the flight surgeon about the decision; the latter must be familiar with all aspects of the astronaut’s health. Apart from this, it is a completely a personal choice. From what I have heard from my colleagues, I believe that often considerations of practicality make it preferable to choose for pharmacological suppression. It is not, however, any different from what is commonly practiced by many women: those who typically use the “classic” contraceptive pill is in fact already suppressing the menstrual cycle. The bleeding during the week of interruption (or placebo), are not a real period, but a so-called withdrawal bleeding. If you decide instead of having a regular menstrual cycle on board, it’s not a problem. There are stocks of sanitary products onboard and the “bother” is really a minor one: I would not want to change, for example, having to need to shave my face (and maybe even the head) each morning in weightlessness!

 Samantha Cristoforetti

The pink running shoes


Pink shoes, yes. But the ones for astronauts

Shenanigans 2009, the 2009 class of astronauts I am part of consists of myself and five other European professionals from different countries. The ones who see our group photo, usually immediately notice one thing: that I’m the only woman. The case also wanted me to be the first Italian astronaut and this, invariably used by the media as a middle name, generates attention and curiosity. To be honest, being one of the subjects of the photo and not looking at it with the eyes of the public, do not pay much attention to this. Firstly, I would like to clarify something important: there’s really nothing exceptional with this. Many female astronauts have been in space and there is no specific activity nor task, part of this profession, that they could not carry out. No one expects me to prove anything. Secondly, I would like to make it clear that I am interested in other things. I’m an engineer, a military pilot, as well as an astronaut, there is nothing in my background that makes me an expert on gender issues. I do not have a trained eye to capture these aspects, nor the trained mind to reflect about it. In short, it is very unlikely that I have something clever and original to say about it! In any case the curiosity of those who look at the picture remains. Admittedly, I too,  as a young girl, seeing the photos and reading the stories of those who went into space, was particularly fascinated by female astronauts. Maybe because they were a minority, maybe because they were more like me. If I had met them, I think I too would have had some specific questions that I would not have asked their male colleagues. “Pink shoes” (as a section) is dedicated to these questions. To make room for the legitimate curiosity, without “getting out of the photo”.  

The pink running shoes