A Legal Perspective on Career Limitations upon Female Astronauts Due to Cosmic Radiation Exposure
Triggered by the contemporary assumption that female astronauts are facing a manifestation of gender-based discrimination regarding career options due to NASA’s strict cosmic radiation exposure limit restrictions, the main purpose of this paper is to analyze the legal perspective of this issue through labor principles of opportunity and health. By recognizing galactic cosmic rays as a special type of radiation exposure naturally occurring within the astronaut’s working environment, it is questioned whether such a severe health threat deserves to be used as a justification for labor discrimination. While examining the legal status of astronauts in labor relations may contribute in realizing the importance of an astronaut’s profession as an individual as well as for the benefit of mankind, the capacities that space agencies, as employers, have in order to fulfill their obligation of eliminating health risks originating from cosmic radiation and solar storms, can be further examined in order to find out if this spaceflight opportunity limitation is just another well hidden demonstration of gender-based discrimination, mainly through the following determinants: 1) Duration of the space mission, and 2) Position of the space object. Also, given the fact that the notion of “outer space labor law” is still nonexistent, this paper additionally emphasizes the need for the establishment of international standards concerning protection against cosmic radiation, in order for astronauts, irrelevant of their nationality, to receive equal health protection measures, as subjects to labor relations.
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