Gallery of the Day

8 Extraordinary Women That Conquered Space


On this day in 1983 the Space Shuttle Challenger took off on its second flight, carrying Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. So let’s celebrate with a gallery of some women that took to the stars.

In 1963 the Soviet Union sent the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, into space. She was also the first civilian in space as she was only an honorary member of the Soviet Air Force. After her trip to space she went on to be a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party from 1969 to 1991.

1983 saw the first American woman in space with Sally Ride. Before heading to the stars she had her doctorate in physics, making her a perfect candidate for space travel. After she left NASA in 1987 she went on to become a physics professor at the University of California, San Diego, and the director of the California Space Institute.

Kathryn D. Sullivan was the first woman to perform an EVA (extra-vehicular activity) in 1984. She went on to fly on three space shuttle missions where she logged over 500 hours in space. After her departure from NASA she went on to become the Director of Ohio State University’s Battelle Center for Mathematic and Science Education Policy.

Astronaut Shannon Lucid first went up to space in 1985 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. She once held the record for the longest duration stay in space by an American. She has flown in five different space missions, and is the only American woman to serve aboard Mir. She has also served as NASA’s Chief Scientist for several years. In 2012 she announced her retirement from NASA.

Helen Sharman was the first British citizen in space and the second woman to fly on Mir. She was one of five crew members of the Soyuz TM-12 mission, this was the end result of 18 months of intensive training. After her trip to space she has gone on to be a member of the senior managment of the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing at Kingston University.

Roberta Bondar is the first Canadian female astronaut, and also the first neurologist in space. Her lone mission to space was aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, where she performed experiments in Spacelab. After her career as an astronaut she became NASA’s head of space medicine. She has also been inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

Mae Jemison became the first African-American woman in space in 1992 when she went into orbit aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. After her departure from NASA in 1993 she was a professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College, and then went on to become a professor at Cornell University.

Eileen Collins was the first female Space Shuttle pilot and the first commander. Before her tenure as an astronaut she was a pilot in the Air Force, where she was also a test pilot. In 1990 she was selected for the astronaut program, and in 1995 she finally made it to space when she piloted the Space Shuttle Discovery. In 2006 she left NASA, and has made several appearances on CNN as an analyst for Space Shuttle launches.

About the author