Not one, but two tables at the LPSC Women’s Networking Breakfast chose to discuss the roles of women on planetary science flight missions. The issue is complex, but the women in the room reduced it to a few key points:
1. Few, if any, women are currently qualified to serve as Mission Principal Investigator under the new rules for the upcoming New Frontiers (and, incidentally, the closed SMEX) AO.
2. The pipeline to becoming qualified is vague and undefined. There was a request for definition of a specific pathway that would provide the necessary experience before the end of one’s scientific career.
3. If there is a pipeline, and it assumes that one is first an instrument Co-I, then an instrument deputy PI or PI, and then a deputy mission PI before becoming a mission PI, is there really enough time in one person’s career to complete this path? For example, are there even enough Outer Planets mission opportunities for one person to gain this experience without changing research focus?
4. What is the role of Participating Scientist Programs in such a pathway?
5. The composition of instrument and mission teams is a networking issue. What can be done to encourage the advancement of women on mission teams?