"Where did this boat come from?"

Peggy Whitson is a 48-year-old biochemist who fell from space and landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan. The eight people who greeted her didn't quite understand that they had encountered a spaceship gone astray, and asked about the origins of her boat.

After the crash landing (termed a "ballistic reentry") Anatoly Perminov, the chief of Russia's Federal Space Agency referenced the naval tradition of having more women than men on board a ship as a "bad omen":

"You know in Russia, there are certain bad omens about this sort of thing, but thank God that everything worked out successfully,'' he said. "Of course in the future, we will work somehow to ensure that the number of women will not surpass'' the number of men.

Challenged by a reporter, Perminov responded: "This isn't discrimination. I'm just saying that when a majority (of the crew) is female, sometimes certain kinds of unsanctioned behaviour or something else occurs, that's what I'm talking about.''

He did not elaborate.

The boat came from Russia. Peggy Whitson is from Iowa.

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