Humans have been exploring space and flying into space since 1961. The first woman to be launched into space was in 1963. Women have gone on to setting records for long-duration space flights and going on spacewalks. In the last half-century, more than 60 women have flown into space whereas over 500 men made their space trip during the same duration. Here are the most famous female astronauts who have aided in pushing the boundaries and limits of spaceflight.
Some Famous Female Astronauts
- Valentina Tereshkova
Valentina Tereshkova was the very first and most famous female astronaut to venture into space. Born in Bolshoye Maslennikova in the USSR in 1937, she worked in a factory in her younger days. Later, she developed a passion for skydiving. She piloted the Vostok6 spacecraft around the earth as a solo journey orbiting Earth for 48 hours. The consecutive woman to take off into space didn’t fly off for about 20 years after her. She did not fly again into space and spent the latter part of her career in training male cosmonauts.
- Svetlana Savitskaya
Svetlana Savitskaya was the second woman to fly into space. She also had the credit of being a record-breaking pilot. She was born in Moscow in 1948 and initiated an interest in skydiving as a teenager. Her father was a high-ranking officer in the military and eventually realized her passion for flying and went to support her. In her early twenties, she won the World Aerobatic Championship. She became a cosmonaut and an astronaut in 1982. She is the second woman to fly into space after Tereshkova. However, she did get a chance to fly into space for the second time making her the first woman to fly into space numerous times.
- Sally Ride
Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly into space in 1978 after completing her Ph.D. degree in physics from Stanford University. On being selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA after a whole 5 years of training, she flew on Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983. She flew on Challenger again in 1984. She served as a major inspiration to young women to pursue science and dedicated the final years of her career to this cause. She died of pancreatic cancer in 2012.
- Christa McAuliffe
Christa McAuliffe was a social studies teacher at the New Hampshire High School. She tragically died in the Space Shuttle disaster in 1986. Even though she did not set her foot on space, her legacy still lives today. On reaching the orbit, the plan was to have McAuliffe teach lessons to school students around the country. She along with 6 astronauts died when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded a few moments after leaving the launchpad.
- Mae Jemison
Born in Decatur, Alabama in 1956, she was the first African-American woman in space. She earned an engineering degree at Stanford University. She went on to Cornell University, graduating in medicine in 1981. She interned in L.A. County Medical Center before joining the Peace Corps to work as a doctor. NASA selected her as an astronaut in 1987. She flew into space only once. She flew on Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992.
- Eileen Collins
Collins was born in 1956 and earned four degrees in her education from four different universities. She holds diplomas in science, economics, math, and management. Collins spent her time becoming a U.S. Air Force pilot and also instructed other pilots. In 1990, she was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate. On STS-63, in 1995, she became the first woman to pilot and fly on the space shuttle and also carried out a docking with Russia’s Mir Space Station. She flew a total of four different shuttle missions before retiring from NASA in 2006.
- Kalpana Chawla
She was the first astronaut of Indian origin. She was born in Karnal, India in 1962. Her father supported her flying ambitions by taking her to local flying clubs when she was young. Eventually, she moved to the US to pursue higher degrees in engineering. She earned two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. degree in aerospace from the University of Colorado. She later went on to become a NASA researcher. She flew into space twice on Space Shuttle Columbia. During her second flight, Columbia exploded as it returned to Earth; she along with 6 astronauts died on February 1, 2003.
These are some of the most famous female astronauts to pioneer spacecraft. They will always be remembered for their remarkable contributions.
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