Women have come a long way in space travel: Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963, and since then, 47 different women have flown with NASA. In fact, NASA maintains a Women of NASA website which contains profiles of and information about all of their female astronauts past and present. There are currently four female astronauts from astronaut classes of 2004 and 2009 who have not yet flown in a mission, but will do so in the near future.
Right this minute, there are four women in space (for the first time in history!). At 3:44 A.M. EST on Wednesday, April 7th during mission STS-131, three space shuttle Discovery female astronauts joined the International Space Station’s Tracy Caldwell Dyson. Mission STS-131 is providing supplies and equipment to the International Space Station, will include three space walks, and will make repairs to the ISS [PDF].
The crew of the Discovery includes Stephanie Wilson, who is the second African-American woman to go into space. She received her BS from Harvard and her Masters at the University of Texas. She has flown in two other missions prior to this one, and is from Boston, Mass. Her profile states that she enjoys “skiing, music, and stamp collecting.”
The second woman aboard the Discovery is Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger. She received her Bachelor’s in geology from Whitman College, and prior to this was the Educator Mission Specialist for NASA, which means she gets to “spur excitement among the youth of today in maths, science and all things spacey and exploratory.” Dottie has also completed more than 10 marathons.
Naoko Yamazaki, the third woman on the Discovery mission, is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut. She received her Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Tokyo, and has been an astronaut since 2001. Fun fact: Ms. Yamazaki has also helped to produce an anime cartoon series in Japan entitled “Rocket Girls.”
Last but not least is Dr. Tracy Caldwell Dyson, who is the woman living at the International Space Station. She is the lead singer of an all-astronaut rock and roll band. Additionally, “she is one of the few people on the planet to have celebrated her birthday (number 38 to be exact) in space.”
These women are making space history, and are paving the way for more female engineers, scientists, and astronauts to come. We wish them well in their missions.