Houston, We Have A Problem
Were 100 tampons enough for a one-week mission into space? Or would she need 200? This was what a male NASA engineer asked Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.
When she was selected to join the STS-7 mission aboard the Challenger in 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. She was preceded by Russian cosmonauts Valentina Teresjkova en Svetlana Savitskaja. Especially for Ride, NASA had to make some adjustments to the space shuttle. A special women’s changing room was introduced, which colleague-astronaut Judy Resnik (who later died during the Challenger explosion) decorated with a poster of ‘Magnum’ Tom Selleck.
Naturally, also tampons were needed. These were packed with their strings connecting them – like a strip of sausages – to keep them from floating away. A male colleague asked Sally Ride how many she’d need. Would hundred be the right number for a mission of seven days? ‘That would not be the right number,’ she answered. ‘How about 200 then?’, came the ignorant response. The man clearly didn’t have a clue… The evil look she apparently gave him afterwards didn’t make him any wiser.
The discussion that followed later on the American news website Reddit is at least just as funny as the story itself. Here are some reactions:
‘I have no fucking clue. But I sure hope not that many, those little fuckers are expensive.’
‘Bigger question: was she even on her period?’
‘According to my girlfriend 4 boxes would be plenty, especially if she is having a particularly heavy day. So that’s 80 tampons. You better have more than you need and not need them than have less.’
‘Do not question a PMS-ing woman’s math.’
During the mission the crew deployed two communication satellites in orbit and conducted several pharmaceutical experiments. Ride also used the Canadarm, a robotic arm she had helped designing, also called a Shuttle Remote Manipulator System. In 1984 Ride joined a second mission, STS-41-G, also aboard the Challenger. In total she spent 343 hours in space. In 1987 Ride left NASA to work at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms Control. In 1989 she became a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, and director of the California Space Institute. Ride passed away in 2012, at the age of 61, following a battle with pancreatic cancer.