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NASA gave a woman astronaut 100 tampons for an expedition that lasted 7 days

When asked if 100 tampons was correct, Sally Ride replied, 'That would not be the right number.'

NASA gave a woman astronaut 100 tampons for an expedition that lasted 7 days
Cover Image Source: Sally Ride Speaks About The Columbia Tragedy In San Diego. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 4, 2020. It has since been updated.

If you were on social media in late 2020, you might have caught Christa B. Allen's Instagram Reel humorously singing about the infamous "100 tampons" incident. "Remember when NASA sent a woman to space for just six days and equipped her with 100 tampons?" she sings. The song, originally written by comedian Marcia Belsky, has gained popularity. This humorous song is rooted in a true story. When NASA sent the first woman to space, Sally Ride, they really did equip her with 100 tampons for an expedition that lasted seven days, Vox reports.


In her profile of Ride, Ann Friedman highlighted the shortcomings of male scientists in understanding female astronauts' needs. She writes, "[In preparation for Ride's trip aboard the Space Shuttle] Tampons were packed with their strings connecting them, like a strip of sausages, so they wouldn’t float away. Engineers asked Ride, 'Is 100 the right number?' She would be in space for a week. 'That would not be the right number,' she told them." Apparently, those in charge of the expedition simply "wanted to be safe." While there are many questions about what exactly Ride had to "be safe" from, it is comical to think about the lack of basic biology that actual NASA scientists do not know.


Furthermore, it highlights the need for equitable gender representation in all fields, particularly STEM. This misunderstanding about menstruation by some of the nation's brightest minds underscores the need for inclusivity in decision-making roles. This incident starkly highlights the dire state of fact-based biology and sex education in the United States. 100 tampons? Really, NASA?


Now, some folks have argued that Ride's expedition took place in 1983, when "gender budgeting" was not really a concept in STEM. However, even if 1983 seems like a really long time ago, we definitely had more information about how long menstrual cycles lasted back then. For those unaware, a menstruator's period will last typically anywhere from two to eight days. During this time, it is recommended to change tampons every four to eight hours. So, by simple math, that means the most the average menstruator will need is a little over 40 tampons. Well, we're glad Sally Ride was equipped with enough tampons to last her almost three months for a week-long trip.


Fortunately, signs of progress are evident. An unprecedented number of women astronauts now contribute to NASA's missions. Although women constitute just a third of NASA's workforce, this figure is poised to grow as more young girls are encouraged to pursue STEM.. In the meantime, we can all listen to Belsky's comical tune about Ride's 100 tampons. Sing along with us, won't you? "And they asked, 'Will that be enough?' 'Cause they didn't know if that was enough... These are our nation's greatest minds..."


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