Women have been blasting into space since 1963 — the year Russian astronaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova became the first and only woman to make a solo mission beyond Earth. Tereshkova orbited Earth 48 times aboard the Vostok 6 on a journey that lasted three days. 

The second woman to venture into space was another Russian astronaut named Svetlana Savitskaya. She became the first woman to travel to space twice and the first to perform a spacewalk, meaning she left her ship and floated in space. 

U.S. astronaut Sally Ride became the third woman to make the journey in 1983, and went again a year later. Ride traveled on the STS-7 mission of the space shuttle Challenger. Her job was to operate the ship’s robotic arm, which she used to set up satellites outside Earth’s atmosphere. 

These trailblazers were only the first. In all, 65 women have been to outer space. However, a woman has yet to walk on the moon. NASA’s Artemis program, a program that will prepare NASA for future crewed missions to Mars, plans to send the first female astronauts to the moon in 2024. Out of 18 astronauts that will participate, nine will be women. 

While female astronauts faced a lot of prejudice in the past, these attitudes are quickly changing. Not only do they experience less prejudice today, they are also considered ideal candidates for long space journeys. This is because women, on average, require less food and oxygen than men. In fact, some space experts have argued that humanity’s first adventure to Mars, a trip that will take at least 7 months, may consist solely of women. Whether that turns out to be the case, women have undoubtedly played an important role in space travel, and will likely play an even bigger one in the future.

Want to Celebrate Women Astronauts? Join World Space Week!

World Space Week, October 4-10, celebrates global contributions to space science and technology for the betterment of the human condition. Founded by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999, the international holiday has been celebrated by more than 95 countries around the globe. This year’s theme, “Women in Space” will celebrate the contributions of women in space and science. Learn more about this important event.


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