When most people think of astronauts, they tend to think of men.
But there have been many incredible women who have also taken to the stars – literally.
But women have played an essential part in space exploration as well as being trailblazing scientists.
Here’s a list of some of the most notable female astronauts. Who knows, maybe one day you could be on this list too!
True fact: Sally Ride wasn’t the first woman in space – Valentina Tereshkova was. Ride was the first American woman in space (an amazing feat in itself of course!).
Because Tereshkova was Russian – at the height of the Cold War – her accomplishment are sometimes written out by American scholars – but they absolutely shouldn’t.
Tereshkova was a trailblazing female astronaut – regardless of her home country.
Valentina Tereshkova was a Soviet cosmonaut who became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963.
She flew into orbit aboard Vostok 6, spending 70 hours and 48 minutes in space.
While she was the only woman among her five male colleagues, she has set several records for being the first to travel in space. She has also earned a number of medals and decorations, including the Order of Lenin, the Red Star, and the Gold Star.
Following her record-breaking mission to space, Tereshkova became an icon in her home country and around the world for pushing boundaries and advocating for gender equality.
In addition to being an astronaut, she was also a trained pilot and an active member of the Communist Party.
Her devotion to her country led to her being awarded numerous honorary titles, such as Hero of the Soviet Union, Pioneer of Spaceflight, and Great Soviet Woman Explorer.
Tereshkova’s legacy has inspired generations of young women around the world to pursue their dreams and reach for even farther heights.
Her bravery and courage will continue to live on as a reminder of the possibilities that exist for all women.
Tereshkova’s accomplishments have been celebrated across the world, with many monuments erected in her honor. She has also been featured in films, books, and television shows honoring her achievements. To this day, Tereshkova is still considered a hero in her home country – but her name ought to be more well-known outside Russia as well.
Svetlana Savitskaya (1948-)
In fact, Sally Ride isn’t even the second woman in space: she’s 3rd. The 2nd woman in space was Tereshkova fellow Russian cosmonauts, Svetlana Savitskaya.
Svetlana Savitskaya is a legendary Russian cosmonaut and the first woman to ever perform a spacewalk.
She was born in Moscow on August 8, 1948 and joined the Soviet Air Force as an engineer in 1969.
After completing training, she became a test pilot for the Yakovlev Design Bureau in 1977.
In 1982, she was selected as a cosmonaut candidate and completed her space training in record time.
In 1984, Savitskaya became the second woman to fly into space.
She served as the co-pilot on Soyuz T-12 mission aboard Salyut 7 that lasted 8 days.
During this mission, she conducted experiments in astrophysics, biology and crystal growth.
In 1985, she became the first woman to ever perform a spacewalk.
During her second mission aboard Salyut 7, Savitskaya completed two EVAs (extra-vehicular activities) while operating a welding torch.
This was a feat that had never been accomplished by any other woman at this time.
Her contribution to space exploration made her a national hero in the Soviet Union and she received numerous awards for her achievements.
Savitskaya continued to serve as a cosmonaut until 1993 when she was appointed deputy director of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre.
She has since retired from active service, but still serves in an advisory role to the Russian space program.
Savitskaya has left a lasting legacy in space exploration and is considered one of the most influential female figures in the field.
She truly broke barriers for what women can accomplish and continues to inspire generations of aspiring astronauts and cosmonauts alike.
Sally Ride (1951-2012)
Sally Ride is an iconic figure in the history of science and space exploration.
She was an American astronaut who became the first American woman in space in 1983.
Ride also holds the distinction of being the youngest American astronaut to travel to space, as she was just 32 years old when she made her historic flight.
Ride went on to have a successful career as an astronaut, conducting two more space shuttle missions and serving on the presidential commission that investigated the Challenger disaster.
Ride continued to work for NASA until 1987, when she left the agency to pursue a career in teaching and become a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego.
She died in 2012 at the age of 61.
Overcoming gender stereotypes, Dr. Ride was awarded numerous honorary degrees, including a Doctor of Science degree from Princeton University, becoming the only person to be honored with two doctoral degrees before her thirtieth birthday.
In addition to her career with NASA, Sally Ride was also internationally recognized as an accomplished physicist and educator.
She co-authored sereval books on space exploration, physics and environmentalism and has served on several commissions examining various aspects of science and educational policy.
Mae Jemison (1956-)
Mae Jemison is an American astronaut, physician, and engineer.
Jemison became the first African American woman in space when she flew on the space shuttle Endeavour in 1992.
Jemison flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour as part of a mission to study weightlessness and its effects on the human body.
She left NASA in 1993 to pursue a career in teaching and public engagement.
Jemison is currently the president and CEO of her own company, The Earth We Share, which promotes STEM education for young people around the world.
Mae Jemison was born in Decatur, Alabama on October 17th, 1956.
The daughter of a teacher and an engine dispatch system manager, Jemison exhibited a keen interest in science at an early age.
She once conducted experiments using her family’s washing machine to test the laws of physics.
After graduating from high school, she received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University and then went on to earn her Doctorate in Medicine from Cornell University Medical College.
Her impressive credentials earned her a spot aboard the Endeavour shuttle as part of what NASA deemed the ‘Year of Education’ mission.
During this mission, she performed research designed to study diseases such Sister Mary Joseph nodule and histiocytosis X and launched educational projects for Earth-bound students, such as creating three short videos about her experience in outer space from onboard the shuttle.
Today, Mae continues to challenge traditional gender roles by speaking out about ambition and hard work—two qualities that helped launch her incredible career.
As a result, she is one of America’s most beloved astronauts and an inspiration for countless people around the world who are looking for their own places within the stars.
Kalpana Chawla (1962-2003)
Kalpana Chawla was an Indian-American astronaut who flew on two space shuttle missions.
Chawla first flew into space aboard the Columbia in 1997 and returned to space aboard the Challenger in 2003.
Tragically, the Challenger disintegrated during its return flight, killing all seven crew members onboard, including Chawla.
She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 2004.
Laurel Clark (1961-2003)
Kalpana Chawla wasn’t the only woman on top of the Columbia – with her was the American astronaut Laurel Clark.
Laurel Clark was born on March 10th, 1961 in Iowa City, Iowa. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Doctorate degree in Medicine. In 1987, she joined the Navy as a medical officer and served for nine years. During her time in the Navy, Laurel worked to improve healthcare for her fellow servicemembers, and she was later promoted to the rank of Commander.
In 1996, Laurel was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA. She completed her training in 1998 and shortly after was assigned to her first mission aboard space shuttle Columbia.
During this mission, Laurel conducted a variety of experiments related to plant growth and microbes in microgravity.
Laurel was part of the crew on board space shuttle Columbia when it tragically disintegrated during reentry in 2003.
She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor for her service to NASA and her work as an astronaut. Her memory is honored by many, including a variety of awards given to astronauts in her name.
Laurel was a beloved and respected member of the astronaut corps, and her courage, determination, and devotion to science continue to inspire us today.
She remains an example of what one can achieve through hard work and dedication.
Eileen Collins (1956-)
Eileen Collins is an American astronaut and retired United States Air Force colonel. Collins became the first woman to pilot a space shuttle when she piloted the Discovery on STS-63 in 1995.
She went on to become the first woman to command a space shuttle when she commanded STS-93 aboard Columbia in 1999.
Collins retired from NASA in 2006 but remains active as a public speaker and advocate for STEM education.
Eileen Collins is an American astronaut who became the first female commander of a Space Shuttle mission in 1995.
Born in 1956, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and statistics from Syracuse University in 1978, followed by Masters degrees in operations research and space systems management from Webster College.
Collins flew on four Space Shuttle missions during her career with NASA, logging more than 1,000 hours in space. She retired from NASA in 2006 and currently works as a private consultant for the aerospace industry.
Her impressive academic career led her to join the United States Air Force, becoming the first ever female pilot selected to log flight hours on the Space Shuttle, and subsequently being chosen as NASA’s first female shuttle commander.
During her incredible career, Eileen Collins commanded two different space missions, played an integral role in the rendezvousing of Discovery and Mir Space Station, operating out of a remote Russians base in Star City.
Beyond this, Collins also took part in multiple textbooks on leadership and was inducted into numerous Hall of Fames for both Physics and Astronomy.
Indeed it is clear that Eileen Collins has made many outstanding contributions to space exploration – setting a new standard for all future female astronauts.
For these reasons alone, she stands as an inspiring example of what can be achieved when one dreams big and dares greatly.
From breaking gender norms to blazing trails into the unknown recesses of space; she truly embodies courage under pressure!
Nancy Currie (1958-)
Nancy Currie is an American astronaut and retired United States Army colonel.
Currie flew on three space shuttle missions between 1991 and 1996, including STS-57 aboard Endeavour, STS-70 aboard Discovery, and STS-88 aboard Endeavour.
Currie also served as a mission specialist on two International Space Station expeditions: Expedition 5 with Valery Korzun and Sergei Treshchov, and Expedition 11 with Sergei Krikalev and John Phillips. She retired from NASA in 2006 and now works as a consultant for various aerospace companies.
Kathryn Sullivan (1951-)
Kathryn Sullivan is an American astronaut and oceanographer who flew on three space shuttle missions between 1984 and 1993.
She was the first American woman to walk in space in 1984. During her career, she made three spacewalks during her career with NASA, totaling more than 20 hours of EVA time.
Sullivan was a member of the crew of STS-41G aboard Challenger, which launched from Kennedy Space Center on October 5, 1984 – making her the first American woman to fly into space aboard a spacecraft with its own propulsion system (as opposed to being carried aloft by another vehicle).
Sullivan went on to serve as Chief Scientist at NOAA from 1993 to 1996 before returning to NASA as Director of Strategic Planning from 1998 to 20021.
She left NASA in 1993 and currently serves as the president and CEO of the Center for Science, Technology, and Policy at Ohio State University.
Kathryn Sullivan is a pioneering American astronaut, scientist, and educator who has made tremendous strides in the advancement of human space exploration.
After graduating with a degree in earth sciences from the University of California at Santa Cruz and completing her doctorate at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Sullivan developed an interest in oceanography and astronauts which prompted her to apply for the Astronaut Candidate Program. In 1978, she became one of only six women accepted into the program and was subsequently assigned as mission specialist on two space shuttle flights. On October 11th, 1984 she took part in one of the most memorable moments of her career when she became the first woman to walk in space.
Since then, Sullivan has remained devoted to advancing education through scientific exploration serving as Chief Scientist at NASA, Chairwoman of Ohio Aerospace Institute’s board and teaching full-time at Ohio State University. Currently an adviser for commercial human spaceflight programs and member of numerous science teams like NASAs Mars Curiosity Rover mission, Kathryn Sullivan serves as an eager ambassador for furthering our collective knowledge of what lies beyond Earth.
Her numerous awards serve as a testament to her dedication on behalf of all humankind striving towards space exploration. Her indefatigable spirit is a reminder that there is always more to be learned about our universe no matter how far we venture into it.
Anna Lee Fisher (1949-)
Anna Lee Fisher is an American astronaut who became the first mother in space when she flew on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984.
Fisher left NASA in 1999 after serving as a mission specialist on four Space Shuttle missions. She currently works as a private consultant for the aerospace industry.
Peggy Whitson (1960-)
Peggy Whitson is an American astronaut who has spent more time in space than any other American – over 665 days!
Whitson has also completed 10 spacewalks, totaling more than 60 hours of EVA time.
She is currently serving as the commander of the International Space Station.
Peggy Whitson is an American biochemist and a retired astronaut of NASA.
She was the first female chief of the Astronaut Office, with the longest cumulative time in space for both U.S. astronauts and women worldwide: 665 days over three missions to the International Space Station (ISS).
She was also the first woman to command the ISS twice and holds several records for female spacewalkers.
Whitson was born in Iowa in 1960 and graduated with a PhD in biochemistry from Rice University in 1985.
She joined NASA as a research biochemist at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in 1986, where she worked on experiments that studied how space flight affects the human body.
In 1996, she was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA, and she flew her first mission to the ISS in 2002.
Whitson is passionate about science education and inspiring future generations of space explorers.
She continues to give talks and lectures around the world about her time in space, encouraging others to reach for their own dreams.
Tracy Caldwell Dyson (1969-)
Tracy Caldwell Dyson is an American astronaut who has logged over 180 days in space during her career with NASA.
Caldwell Dyson has served as a mission specialist on two Space Shuttle missions and one International Space Station expedition.
She is currently serving as a backup crew member for future ISS expeditions.
Stephanie Wilson (1966-)
Stephanie Wilson is an American astronaut who has flown on three Space Shuttle missions during her career with NASA.
Wilson has logged over 362 hours in space, including more than 21 hours of EVA time during three spacewalks.
She is currently serving as a backup crew member for future ISS expeditions.
Sunita Williams (1965-)
Sunita Williams is an American astronaut and United States Navy officer who holds the record for most spacewalks performed by a female astronaut.
She has flown on two Space Shuttle missions, STS-116 and STS-117, and was a member of Expedition 14 and then Expedition 15 to the International Space Station.
During her time in space, she has logged over 50 hours of spacewalk time and has spent 322 days in space, ranking her seventh on the all-time list of astronauts.
In addition to flying to the International Space Station, she also set a record for running seven marathons there.
Shannon Lucid (1943-)
Shannon Lucid is a former American astronaut and biochemist who holds the record for the longest duration spaceflight of any US astronaut.
She flew several missions with both NASA and the Russian Space Agency, logging over 223 days in space.
On her last mission, she served as a flight engineer aboard Mir and was part of an international crew.
Lucid is also known for her work on scientific experiments while in space, including conducting research on microgravity, the effects of weightlessness, and other aspects of life in space.
She was awarded several honors during her career, such as the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and induction into the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Bonnie Dunbar (1949-)
Astronaut Bonnie Dunbar is an American hero who has spent her life dedicated to exploration, both on the ground and in space.
She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Ceramic Engineering from the University of Washington, then she obtained a Master’s of Science in Physical Science from California State University and Doctorate of Philosophy in Mechanical/Biomedical Engineering from the same university.
After she graduated, she joined Rockwell International where she was an aerospace engineer and technical consultant.
Then, after approximately twenty years with Rockwell International, Dunbar became one of NASA’s Shuttle Mission Specialists where she conducted several missions aboard Columbia, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor.
After leaving NASA in 2005 Dunbar served as President/CEO for The Museum of Flight until 2018 and currently serves on multiple boards including the X Prize Foundation Board, Stanford University’s Center for Excellence Space Systems Advisory Council, Vulcan Aerospace & Belwould Research Institute Advisory Board among others.
Christina Koch (1979-)
Christina Koch is an American astronaut and electrical engineer.
She first made history in 2019 when she spent a record-breaking 328 days in space during her mission with NASA.
During the mission, she conducted seven spacewalks, which was another record for a female astronaut.
Koch has also been involved with numerous experiments to study the effects of space on the human body, such as developing a new system for monitoring vital signs.
She has also explored the effects of long-term exposure to microgravity and radiation in space, which could help scientists better understand how humans might adapt to future long-duration exploration missions.
Koch’s efforts have been acknowledged by many organizations, including the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, which inducted her in 2020.
She was also honored with NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal for outstanding contribution to human spaceflight operations and exploration research during her time aboard the International Space Station.
Koch continues to demonstrate her commitment to science and exploration by participating in a variety of educational outreach programs, such as speaking at schools and universities about her experience in space.
She is an inspiration to young people everywhere and a reminder that with dedication and hard work, anyone can achieve greatness. Christina Koch will continue to make history for many years to come.
Jessica Meir (1977-)
Jessica Meir is an astronaut and marine biologist from Caribou, Maine.
She graduated from Brown University in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and later earned master’s degrees in Space Studies from the International Space University in 2002 as well as Bioastronautics from MIT in 2008.
Meir has been with NASA since 2013 and was selected for the astronaut corps in 2015. She completed her astronaut training in July 2017 and made history as part of Expedition 61/62, becoming the first woman to perform a spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS).
During this spacewalk, Meir and fellow astronaut Christina Koch installed new lithium-ion batteries for the space station’s solar array system.
Meir has had a lifelong passion for exploring and understanding the natural world, with a particular interest in marine life.
Before her career as an astronaut, Meir was Chief Scientist of Aquarius Reef Base, an underwater research station off the coast of Florida and participated in several research missions to study wildlife in the Arctic Circle and Antarctic.
Meir has dedicated her life to inspiring others to reach for the stars, especially young women and children.
She is an ambassador of STEM education, speaking at numerous events around the world to share her story and experiences in space exploration.
Meir’s efforts have earned her a reputation as a role model for aspiring astronauts and adventurers.
Anne McClain (1979-)
Anne McClain is an American engineer, former military officer and NASA astronaut who has made a name for herself in the space exploration community.
She was chosen to become an astronaut in the 2013 NASA class and completed her first mission to the International Space Station in 2018–2019.
During her time at NASA, she has worked on numerous projects including helping with the first all-female spacewalk and the development of safety systems for space vehicles.
She also serves as an ambassador for science, technology and STEM education, helping to inspire the next generation of space explorers.
Her other achievements include being selected as a NASA Astronaut Corps Member, receiving numerous awards including the Air Force Commendation Medal and NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, and completing the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School’s Advanced Course in 2013.
She has also authored several papers on topics related to space exploration, robotic systems, avionics, and flight control systems.
McClain’s commitment to her career was further recognized in 2019, when she was presented with the prestigious Silver Snoopy Award for her outstanding performance and dedication to the space program. This award is the highest honor that can be bestowed by a NASA astronaut and recognizes those who have demonstrated excellence in their work.
McClain’s commitment to providing a safe journey for all astronauts and her passion for exploration are an inspiration to us all.
Shannon Walker (1965-)
Shannon Walker is a highly-accomplished scientist and astronaut with over 20 years of experience in the space industry.
She was a mission specialist on the International Space Station Expedition 25/26 in 2010, where she performed several tasks such as operating remote manipulator systems and robotic arms.
In addition to her remarkable accomplishments in space exploration, Shannon Walker is renowned for her scientific research.
She has conducted studies in the fields of astrobiology, planetary sciences, and physical sciences at the Johnson Space Center.
Her expertise and knowledge have contributed to several publications in academic journals and books.
Shannon Walker’s passion for science and exploration continues to inspire people around the world.
She frequently speaks at conferences about her experiences and encourages the next generation of space explorers to reach for the stars.
Shannon Walker is an incredible example of the extraordinary work that can be achieved when ambition, hard work, and dedication combine.
Her determination and achievements serve as a reminder that space exploration not only opens up new opportunities but also inspires us all to strive for greater heights.
Serena Auñón-Chancellor (1976-)
Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor is a medical doctor, engineer and NASA astronaut.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and received her Doctor of Medicine degree at Indiana University School of Medicine.
She completed her residency at the Mayo Clinic and has trained as an emergency medicine physician.
In addition to her medical training, Dr. Auñón-Chancellor also has experience in space exploration, having served as the Flight Engineer on Expedition 56 and 57 onboard the International Space Station.
During her mission, she conducted experiments such as studying how microgravity affects bone density, muscle strength and vision, as well as human physiology responses during long duration spaceflight.
Dr. Auñón-Chancellor is a passionate advocate for STEM education and has encouraged young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
She has conducted outreach activities at schools throughout the United States and abroad, as well as participated in public appearances and interviews to promote STEM education.
In recognition of her dedication to STEM, she was awarded the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal in 2020.
Who Is the Most Famous Female Astronaut?
The most famous female astronaut is undoubtedly Dr. Sally Ride, who was the first American woman to fly in space.
On June 18, 1983, she became the first American woman (and third woman ever) to go into space aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger.
She was only 32 at the time and remains one of the most inspirational figures in human spaceflight.
She continued to serve on space missions until 1987, and although she never flew in space again, she remained an important advocate for science and education.
Throughout her career, Sally Ride received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.
She was a true pioneer whose legacy continues to inspire generations of astronauts and scientists around the world.
How Many Females Have Been Astronauts?
Since the beginning of the space age, hundreds of astronauts have gone into space.
However, the number of female astronauts is much lower—only about 60 women have ever flown in space.
This includes female astronauts from around the world, including Russia, China, Japan, Canada, and many more countries.
The first two women to fly in space were Soviet cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 and Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982.
Other famous female astronauts include:
- Shannon Lucid – first American woman to live in space
- Kathryn Sullivan – first American woman to walk in space
- Eileen Collins – the first woman to command a space shuttle mission
- Peggy Whitson – the first woman to command the International Space Station
- Sunita Williams – who holds the record for the longest single space flight by a woman
- Christina Koch – longest single spaceflight by a woman
- Jessica Meir – first all-female spacewalk
- Shannon Walker
- Anne McClain
- Serena Auñón-Chancellor
These women have all made important contributions to the field of human spaceflight.
The number of women astronauts has been increasing since the dawn of the space age, and it’s inspiring to think about how many more women will become astronauts in the future.
Today, more women than ever are joining the ranks of astronauts, and we can hope that in the future space travel would be much more diverse.
Who was the first woman astronaut?
The first woman to go into space was Valentina Tereshkova in 1963.
She was a Russian cosmonaut and flew aboard Vostok 6. She completed 48 orbits of the Earth during her three-day mission, which was a record for the time.
She is still honored today as a pioneering female astronaut and in 2013 she was awarded the Hero of Russia title by Vladimir Putin.
Her legacy continues to inspire generations of astronauts and scientists around the world.
Who was the first African American woman astronaut?
The first African American woman to go into space was Dr. Mae Jemison in 1992.
She flew aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour and became the first black woman in space on STS-47 mission.
On her historic flight, she conducted experiments involving weightlessness, motion sickness, and bone cell research.
After retiring from NASA, Dr. Jemison founded the non-profit organization The Earth We Share which encourages scientific literacy through student participation in international science camps.
In 2020 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame for her work as a physician, teacher, and astronaut.
How many female astronauts have walked on the Moon? Has Any Woman Walked On The Moon?
No female astronaut has ever walked on the Moon.
So far, 12 people have walked on the moon – all of them male.
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