NASA to increase participation of women in Artemis mission
Currently, female astronauts are less likely to be selected for missions than men because their bodies do not match NASA’s maximum permissible limit of radiation. NASA expects the first woman and black man to be sent to the Moon on Artemis III sometime after 2024. As a scholar of Greek mythology, I find the mission’s name quite suggestive: the Greeks and Romans linked Artemis to the moon, and that was in modern times, explained Marie-Claire Beaulieu, associate professor in classical studies at Tufts University in the US. It has also become a feminist symbol.
Artemis the name of the ancient Greek goddess
Artemis was a major goddess in ancient Greece, worshiped at least as early as the first millennium BC or even earlier. She was the daughter of Zeus, the chief god of the Olympians, who ruled the world from the summit of Mount Olympus. She was also the twin sister of Apollo, the god of the sun and oracle. Artemis was a virgin goddess of the forest and hunting. Her independence and strength have long inspired women in a wide range of activities. For example, in a poem titled “Artemis”, author Allison Eir Jenks writes in an emphasis on women’s independence and autonomy: “I am now your godmother… your cook, your bus-stop, your doctor.” I am not your junk drawer.
Artemis symbol of female power
As the goddess of animals and the forest, Artemis has also inspired environmental conservation programs, in which the goddess is seen as an example of a woman exercising her power by caring for the planet. However, while the Greek Artemis was strong and courageous, she was not always kind and caring, even towards women. However, this aspect of the goddess faded with time. With the rise of feminism, Artemis became a symbol of female power and self-reliance.
NASA names missions on mythological characters
NASA has a long history of naming its missions after mythological characters. In the early 1950s, many rockets and launch systems were named after Greek sky gods, such as Atlas and Saturn, whose Greek name is Kronos. Atlas and Saturn weren’t just gods, they were titans. In Greek mythology, the Titans represent the unstoppable, elemental forces of nature, and so they invoke the singular vastness of space exploration. Although the Titans were known for their immense power, they were also rebellious and dangerous and were eventually defeated by the Olympians, who in Greek mythology represent civilization.
The names of many Greek gods have already been kept
After the advent of human spaceflight, NASA began naming the mission after the children of Zeus who are associated with the sky. The Mercury program, active from 1958 to 1963, was named after the Roman equivalent of Hermes, the angel god, who flies between Olympus, Earth and Hades with his winged sandals.
NASA also kept some names apart
Beginning in 1963, the three-year Gemini program featured a capsule designed for two astronauts and named after the twin sons of Zeus – Castor and Pollux, known in Greek as Dioscuri. – who was cast as Gemini in the stars. In Greek and Roman art he was always depicted with a star on his head. The Space Shuttle program, which ran from 1981 to 2011, departed from the mythical nicknames, and the names Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor were meant to create a sense of innovation.
NASA is bringing back the Apollo program
With Artemis, NASA is returning to the Apollo program, which ran from 1963 to 1972 and sent humans to the Moon in 1969. More than 50 years later, Artemis would carry on that tradition where her twin brother left off, ushering in a more diverse era of human flight into space.
(Marie-Claire Beaulieu: Associate Professor in Classical Studies, Tufts University Boston (US)