Why does NASA prohibit married couples from traveling on space research missions together?Interesting question.  I wish that I could answer that one, but I can’t.

NASA is the only space agency in the world that has this regulation. NASA’s official explanation for this regulation is that the presence of a married couple aboard a space mission could potentially become disturbing to the other astronauts. However, this regulation has been in place longer than any of the current administrators have been working at NASA, so it’s entirely possible that the current administrators may not know the origin of this regulation. 

Sometimes the explanations for various rules and regulations that are presented to us by the spokespersons from various U.S. government agencies are in fact not the real explanation, so we really don’t know why the prohibition against married couples serving together on the same missions was enacted, to begin with, nor do we know why the rule has lasted into the 2nd decade of the 21st century. Perhaps it’s just me, and maybe I’m missing something, but I actually fail to see how the presence of two astronauts who are married to each other would become disturbing to other fellow astronauts. 

The process of training to become an astronaut is some of the most complicated training in the entire world, I think that astronauts wouldn’t have any difficulties working in an environment in which some of their colleagues are married to each other. 

In militaries as well as in civilian jobs in numerous environments throughout the world, married couples have been permitted to work together for the past few centuries, and notably few problems have resulted from the presence of married couples working together in the same workplaces.

Both NASA, as well as the former Soviet space program, successfully launched the first astronauts and cosmonauts into space flight in 1961.  It is now 2017.  The administrators at every space agency in the world except for NASA have stated that they would be willing to send married couples on space research missions together.

The One Time Exception: STS-47, Space Shuttle Endeavour, Sept. 12th- 20th, 1992

Astronauts Mark C. Lee & N. Jan Davis (left) were the first married couple to fly on the same space mission aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-47) in 1992

For those readers of The Pavlovic Today who follow space research and astronomy, you may have read about the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s second mission back in September of 1992, STS-47U.S. Air Force Colonel Mark C. Lee (now retired) and the astronaut Nancy Jan Davis (also now retired) decided to defy the prohibition, they married each other a few weeks prior to the scheduled launch date of STS-47.

NASA had already spent several months training these two astronauts for the specific tasks of this mission, so there was no time left to train anyone else prior to the launch date.  And so, on September 12th, 1992, despite the regulation which prohibits this, NASA sent a married couple into low- earth orbit together aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour.  And SURPRISE! There were no problems which resulted from two astronauts who had married each other working together in the same research mission.

“To Understand And Protect Our Home Planet, To Explore The Universe And Search For Life, To Inspire The Next Generation Of Explorers”

While the administrators at NASA seem to have no intention to discuss repealing their regulation which prohibits married couples from serving on the same research and exploration missions together anytime soon, private agencies such as Mars One and SpaceX have no such comparable regulation.  If two partners in a marriage are both interested in astronomy, private companies such as Mars One and SpaceX will be very willing to allow them to travel into space together. 

At the moment, NASA is the only agency which has vehicles which are ready to be launched into space for research missions, but agencies such as Mars One and SpaceX are currently developing their own vehicles, and according to the websites of those 2 agencies, the administrators at both of those 2 agencies do expect that both of those agencies will have vehicles which are capable of safely traveling into space at some point during the 2020s. 

If NASA opts to keep the regulation that prohibits married couples from serving aboard the same research missions together, they will be losing some skilled and talented astronauts to the private sector.

As of 2017, as far as I know, there have yet to be any LGBT astronauts in the U.S. or from any other country, but as I mentioned earlier, the technologies involved in space research continue to become increasingly advanced. 

As space research missions and space travel become more affordable in the upcoming decades of the 21st century, space travel will become more commonplace, there will be more astronauts, and there will inevitably be some LGBT astronauts too.  

LGBT astronauts who are married to each other will also be encountering this same ban at NASA, and I’m still at a loss to explain why they should not be permitted to serve together aboard the same research and exploration missions, if both partners wish to do so.  

Scott Benowitz is a staff writer for Afterimage Review. He holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from The London School of Economics & Political Science and a B.A. in International Studies from Reed...

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