The SpaceX Launch Wasn't Groundbreaking In One Major Way

Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images.

Everything about today's SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch should have been groundbreaking: The world's most powerful rocket — one with the ability to lift almost 141,000 pounds into orbit — achieved liftoff! Elon Musks's personal Tesla is now chilling in space! We may all be living on Mars in the not so far-off future!

But those watching the live stream of the history-making moment that took place at Florida's Kennedy Space Center were quick to take to Twitter with one glaring observation: Shots of the room where employees and onlookers gathered to whoop and holler as they watched the culmination of their hard work showed barely any women. Looking for one in the seemingly all-male crowd was like playing an intensely frustrating game of Where's Waldo.

Although one woman, flight reliability engineer Lauren Lyons, joined male employees to speak during the live cast, the photos showed little gender diversity in the moment of celebration. For women working in tech, it was a disappointing omission, and another reminder of the industry's gender gap.

"I was watching live with some other female engineers and we were so excited about the launch and all watching together and commenting back and forth in excitement," Sara Chipps, the founder of Jewelbots, wearables that teach kids how to code, told Refinery29. That energy disappeared when the group saw the shot of the cheering room of employees. But for Chipps, the moment also reiterated the importance of getting more women involved in STEM from a young age.

"We talk to seven- to 10-year-old [female] engineers in training every day and they can hardly contain the excitement around the things they are building," she said. "I'm going to be really proud to see them on the screen when I'm watching the first people ship off to Mars."

Yes, today was a major step for humankind and SpaceX — but instead of spending effort to sell flamethrowers to fanboys, maybe make sure there are some women in the room next time.

Refinery29 has reached out to SpaceX for comment.

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