Woman pioneers in space

Yesterday, march 8, was the international women day, and I though on describing some statistics (valid for today) and context in the space exploration, centered in the people who reached space. First, when I am saying Astronaut I include all the people who have been or are in space, not the trained ones. Also, I include on them the Cosmonauts and Taikonauts.

In the global perspective only the 12 % of the people in space have been a woman(60 vs. 498).


And if we see it by nationality:


We can see some curiosities, the only astronaut of South Korea is a woman and in Britain the percentage is equal.

The pioneers:

  • First woman in space – Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova – Vostok 6 (1963)
  • First woman to spacewalk – Svetlana Tevgenyevna Savitskaya – Salyut 7 (1984)
  • First woman mission commander & Shuttle pilot – Eileen Marie Collins – STS 114 (2005) , STS 63 (1995)
  • First woman ISS commander – Peggy Annette Whitson – Expedition 16, ISS (2007)
  • First woman space tourist – Aousheh Ansari – TMA 9, ISS, 2006

Valentina V. Tereshkova


She completed 48 orbits of the Earth in her three days in space, she was the 12th human in space (FAI limit) and the 10th in complete an orbit arround Earth. Her previous work was  assembly worker in a textile factory, an amateur skydiver and member of the DOSAAF, a paramilitary sport organization in the Soviet Union.


Svetlana Y. Savitskaya


She was a sports and test pilot, and she got 18 international world records flying a MiG and  3 international world team records in parachute jumping. Also, she won the first place at the 6th FAI World Aerobatic Championship (1970).

19 years after Tereshkova, she become the second woman in space in the Soyuz T-7 mission (1982) and in her second spaceflight, in the Soyuz T-12 (Salyut 7-EP2 mission) , she performed an EVA (Extravehicular Activity) to cut and weld metal for the Salyut 7 space station (Salyut 7-EP4 mission). Like Tereshkova she was a member of the DOSAAF.


Eileen M. Collins

Eileen M Collins during a “hotfiring” procedure prior to rendezvous with the Russian Mir Space Station in the STS 63 mission. Image Credit: NASA

She was a military instructor and test pilot before she applied for the astronaut program in 1990.

Her first flight was as a pilot of the Discovery Space Shuttle (STS 63) in 1995. It involved a rendezvous with the Russian Mir space station. She was also the pilot of the STS 84 mission.

Her fist flight as a commander was with the STS 93 mission, where they deployed the Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO).

In her second flight as a commander and pilot (STS 114), she become the first astronaut to complete a 360 degree pitch maneuver with a Space Shuttle.


Peggy A. Whitson

Image at right: STS-120 Commander Pam Melroy (left) and Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson make space history as the first simultaneous female commanders of the shuttle and space station. Image credit: NASA

She had a doctorate degree in biochemistry when she start working at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. Until her selection as an astronaut candidate, she served as project scientist for the Shuttle-Mir program as Deputy Division Chief for the Medical Science division at the JSC.

Her first flight was in 2002 with the Expedition 5 crew on the STS 111 mission to the International Space Station (ISS), and returned on the STS 113 mission.

On the Expedition 16 she became the first female comander of the ISS and also beat the previous record of EVA time in NASA history with a total time of 29 hours and 18 minutes. She is the 14th on the cumulative spacewalk records.

On her last flight to the ISS (Expedition 50/51), in November of 2016, she become the oldest woman in space with an age of 56, and she is right now in space.


Aousheh Ansari


On the fouth self funded space travel, she became the first Iranian in space. She is an Iranian-American engineer and co-founder and chairwoman of Prodea Systems. The Ansari family is also the title sponsor of the Ansari X Prize.


Recomended film

Hidden Figures (2006) – The story of a team of African-Ameican women mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program.


Statistics: https://www.worldspaceflight.com/bios/stats1.php

More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_space

Valentina V. Tereshkova photo

Svetlana Y. Savitskaya photo

Aousheh Ansari photo



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