Out of this world: females space stars

Females into space: Perhaps the narrative, one small step for man, needs a revamp as increasing numbers of women embark on out-of-this-world journeys into space.

There are many reasons for wanting to see beyond the Earth’s crust. The opportunity to embark on space travel has meant avid explorers are looking to experience something different while helping scientists improve their existence, learn about the world around them and find new resources.

According to figures from NASA, as of March 2023, 72 women have embarked on space missions, with 44 of these working on the International Space StationIt’s a fairly impressive figure, with a study from the Space Foundation stating that up to the 7th of November this year, 676 people in total have journeyed into the outer universe.

With Red Planet Day swiftly approaching on the 28th of November, here we take a look at some of the most famous females who went or are planning to go to infinity and beyond.

Females into Space

Valentina Tereshkova

Russian engineer Valentina is hailed as the first woman ever to fly in space. Her first mission took place in June 1963 and saw her orbit the Earth for over 70 hours in total. Born with a love for skydiving, believe it or not, she never really desired to go to space and was selected randomly as a cosmonaut at just 26 years of age. Valentina was gifted the name ‘Chaika’ (which is Russian for seagull) whilst exploring due to her flighty nature. Although it’s reported she has never vowed to return to space, she spends her time hosting talks around universe-driven education and culture.

Sunita Lyn Williams

American astronaut Sunita must be mentioned due to her passion for spacewalking. The Massachusetts-born United States Navy Officer is a former record holder for most spacewalks by a woman (she completed seven at the time!) It was her love of helicopter flying that pushed her into becoming an astronaut. In her mid-20s at the time, she overheard a conversation about landing the lunar lander and decided to put herself forward for her first space mission. She was eventually chosen by NASA in 1998. With two spaceflights under her belt, she is ranked second female worldwide for the most time spent in space by a woman. 

Space - Photo Credits: Unsplash
Space – Photo Credits: Unsplash

Jessica U. Meir

Highly educated first-generation American Jessica made the grade for space travel with NASA in 2013. As someone who knew nobody involved in the outer World, she was first inspired to put herself forward after watching a number of space shuttle launches on television. It was something she was born with; at just five years old, she told her teacher she wanted to become an astronaut. Following her dreams, she applied to a programme at NASA in 2013 and was delighted to be chosen as one of eight people to travel into space. Armed with a degree in biology, a Master of Science in Space Studies and a Doctorate in Marine biology, her candidate training took a total of two years. Since returning from space, Jessica has worked as the Assistant to the Chief Astronaut for Commercial Crew (SpaceX) and as Deputy for the Flight Integration Division.

Kristina Koch

Another impressive female engineer chosen to go to infinity and beyond is Christina Hammock Koch. Her career with NASA spans years; she started as an electrical engineer and later developed scientific instruments for several NASA space science missions. Holding the title of being the first woman on a moon mission, she travelled to outer Earth in March 2019, spending 328 days in space. Kristina is still heavily involved with NASA and even lived and worked on the International Space Station! She also spends her time taking part in volunteer tutoring and educational outreach.

Peggy Whitson

Billed as America’s most experienced astronaut, Peggy has accumulated a record 665 days in space, which is more than any other American astronaut in the World. The Ph.D. holder has 37 years of space and science experience, has worked as a NASA consultant and is currently a Director of human spaceflight for Axiom Space. Originally from a farm in Iowa, her dream of travelling into space began after watching the first moon landing as a child in 1969. Her involvement in the area has seen her awarded a number of titles, including the TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2018 and the Women in Aviation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. Peggy’s involvement has also honoured her with NASA medals for outstanding leadership and exceptional service. Most impressively, in 2017, she was given the Women in Aviation Lifetime Achievement Award for contributing to all things space-related.

Norah Patten

Last, a mention must go to Irish woman Norah Patten, a Mayo-born woman with ambitions to become the first Irish woman in space. Bitten by the bug on a family holiday to NASA, she was just 11 years of age when she decided she wanted to be an astronaut. Visiting family in Cleveland, she flew back and forth to The Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and pursued a degree in aeronautical engineering at Limerick University. Having written a number of books about space and space travel, she is now set to Dr Norah Patten, who is an Aeronautical Engineer, is set to fulfil her dream in the next few years and is currently participating in a number of microgravity flights for the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences in Canada. Watch this space!

Rebecca Lee is a journalist and broadcaster of over 23 years. She also works in tech communications with ClearStory International. To date, she has written for and continues to contribute to The Business Post, The Irish Times, The Irish Daily Mail, The Sunday World, and, most importantly, European tech publication 4i Magazine. Rebecca also worked as a radio presenter for 13 years with leading Irish stations Q102 and FM104. Alongside balancing her PR and journalism work, Rebecca moderates events, WebSummit 2022 and Dublin Tech Summit being the most recent.