#MeToo in space: We must address the potential for sexual harassment and assault away from Earth

I think there is a problem with the idea that somebody in a remote location can enforce a law or policy on an isolated group of people. I am somewhat amazed that a Russian cosmonaut would sexually attack a Canadian cosmonaut on a simulated space mission that was actually siting on Earth's surface, where supposedly police could intervene quickly. I note that happened on New Year's Eve and I suspect it probably involved vodka. But, I realize the exact same situation could play out on the Moon or Mars much more easily than in such cramped quarters as a Mir space station with other crew members present and no privacy.

Exactly how much of a problem this really is will be hard to determine, considering the politicization of "sexual harassment" issues these days. We see a lot of allegations that seem to be more connected with political character assassination or monetary greed than with actual justice, and that is hard to analytically separate from the actual harassment and assaults. We also have the problem that, in "Western" cultures, women are sexualized for advertising purposes and some individual women choose to flirt with men as a means of getting ahead in their non-sexual endeavors, leading to misunderstandings that can then be alleged to be harassment or assault.

So, at this point, I am thinking it is a real issue with perhaps some embellishment of its severity by those who wish to be employed to study it.

I would hope that missions that are of fixed duration, even long-term ones like trips to Mars, could have crew selected to avoid this type of behavior. But, that could be a challenge if the crew comes from the ranks of fighter aircraft pilots or other macho image career paths.

And, we have to remember that it is not only men who make unwanted and sometime dangerous attempts to initiate sexual activities. Women have attacked women, and women have attacked men. And, men have attacked me, too. So, in this age of accepting 2SLGBTQIA people and working to ensure that they are able to participate in all activities, there will be a lot of competing pressures to include some people whom other people may not be comfortable with.

For long-term missions, I would suggest that the selected crew have at least a 6-month stint of simulated mission isolation on a simulator on Earth, with some serious surveillance by professional psychologists, before launching them.

But, for "colonies" on even the Moon, and certainly Mars, it is really going to be up to those colonists themselves to deal with whatever misconduct occurs. And, that might well include all of the social aspects of initiating pregnancies, child birthing, and raising children to adulthood in a place where no control can be exercised from societies on Earth. We could send them off with a pre-written constitution and laws, but actual enforcement will necessarily be up to the individuals who are actually there. And, after a generation or 2, any colony could well decide to become "independent" if they are, in fact, able to subsist without constant support from Earth. I doubt that could happen on the Moon, but several groups are planning for it on Mars.
 
Does raise some interesting scenarios about independence. How independent is a colony on Mars when their spaceships, etc. are all created on Earth?

Concerning "independence" of space colonies, they would need to be self-sufficient with regard to all of their needs, including food production, reproduction, and manufacturing to be truly independent. Certainly not something to be expected with the earliest outposts. I expect those would be more like our stations in Antarctica, where crews are rotated from habitable areas on Earth. But, if serious manufacturing is developed on Mars, perhaps as a base for mining materials from asteroids, then I would expect those outposts to develop ways to make everything they need right there, rather than spend the money/resources to get everything from Earth after they simply send the raw materials they extract to Earth. So, in the future, this may be an issue, but probably not soon.

Sooner could be a problem where there are permanent inhabitants on Mars who, while not independent of Earth, are extremely hard for Earth to control with respect to "illegal" activities. Humans have a behavior pattern that has some individuals seek power and abuse it for their own personal benefits at the expense of other humans. How would Earth societies deal with a colony commander on Mars who harasses female Mars citizens? If they are dependent on Earth sending them vital supplies, do we "boycott" them until the leader capitulates and returns to Earth for trial and punishment, potentially harming everybody on the colony? In effect, this strategy would basically be demanding a "mutiny" by the colony inhabitants to take down the leader. Or, do we send a space ship of armed "astro police" to take the miscreant into custody and return him(/her?) to Earth for trial?

I am thinking that some devious people could get away with a lot before it was considered necessary to spend the effort to stop them by intervention from Earth.
 
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