Today, at 11:29 a.m. EDT, Sandy Magnus blasted off–becoming the last woman astronaut to enter space via the NASA space shuttle program. Magnus is a NASA veteran, with two previous flights under her belt. And she’s certainly not the only woman to become a space hero. Yet, besides Sally Ride and Christa McAuliffe (who died tragically in the Challenger disaster), how many women astronauts can you name?
In fact, there are 47 amazing women (both American and international) who have flown in the U.S. space shuttle program and helped launch satellites and probes, worked at the International Space Station, performed hundreds of Skylab experiments and spacewalked. Considering that American women were not even allowed [PDF] to become astronauts until 1973 and didn’t actually go into space until 1983, each of their accomplishments feels like a victory for gender equality.
Want to know more? Check out the timeline below, which highlights milestones in the history of America’s women astronauts.
And many have had interesting lives on earth! Consider Mae Jemison as just one example. Jemison, the first black woman to be a U.S. astronaut, was recruited to the NASA space shuttle program by none other than Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols. As a Trekkie herself, she was thrilled by the opportunity. And having an interest in both science and the arts, she combined both on her space mission: She brought along a poster of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company and many pieces of West African art to symbolize that space belongs to all nations. Oh yes, and once she returned to Earth she also appeared in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Now, briefly, meet these barrier-breaking women:
Astronaut graphic copyright Ms. magazine 2011. Some rights reserved–available for reuse with a credit and link back.