This year started off with NASA honouring the graduates from its Artemis programme. After two years of training, these candidates will most likely be those who to go on the next mission to the moon.
Among the graduates were five women: Kayal Barron, Zena Cardman, Jasmin Moghbeli, Jessica Watkins and Jennifer Sidney-Gibbons.
This is an incredible feat as women have often been underrepresented in Space and space travel.
Here is a brief history of the women who paved the way for these five fantastic new astronauts.
First woman in Space
The first woman to make the journey into the cosmos was cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkov. She was from the Soviet Union (now Russia) and was chosen from more than 400 applicants to fly in the Vostok 6 mission on June 16, 1963.
On top of being the first, Tereshkov was also the youngest to undertake a solo mission at only 26.
She now works for the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Federal Assembly.
First female space station commander
Peggy Whitson, an astronaut from NASA, holds a host of “firsts” but the first one she surpassed was becoming the first woman to command the International Space Station. She took the position in April 2008 during Expedition 16.
She then took on another first when she became the first woman to command the station twice when she took command again during Expedition 51. During this expedition, she also took on the title of longest number of days in space by any NASA astronaut after she was in Space for than 534 days.
When she returned she had become the oldest woman in space when she returned from her final mission at 57.
First female space shuttle commander
Commanding a space shuttle is no easy feat and requires a lot of experience. NASA astronaut Eileen Collins was required to have at least 1,000 hours of experience piloting a jet aircraft in order to get the position. As the first space shuttle commander, Collins commanded the STS-93 space shuttle mission in July 1999 and then commanded the STS-114 in 2005.
First female spacewalker
The Soviet’s beat out the US again when it comes to space firsts. Cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya completed the first female spacewalk during her second flight in 1984. She also became the second woman to fly to space in 1982 with the Soyuz T-5 mission to the Salyut 7 space station.
First all-female spacewalk
Despite being postponed once because of an unfortunate spacesuit mishap, the first all-female spacewalk took place in October 2019.
NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir went to repair a fault battery component on the outside of the International Space Station.
Longest time a woman has spent in space
While Peggy Whitson may have held the title for quite some time, Christina Koch has made history again when she returned to Earth in February 2020, thereby setting the record for the longest time set in space by a woman.
With 328 consecutive days, she eclipsed Whitson’s record for an American woman on a single spaceflight at 289 days.
Her mission will provide more data to researchers on how weightlessness and space radiation affects the female body.