To Infinity and Beyond: Female Astronauts

By Julie T.

As the United States celebrates the 50th anniversary of the    Apollo 11 moon landing, ask yourself what first comes to mind when you think of the NASA space program (aside from the “Eagle” touching down in the Sea of Tranquility). “The sky’s the limit”, an expression invoked to convey limitless possibilities, did not carry over into outer space for decades, when it came to female scientists and celestial explorers. During the early years of the American Space program, a group of women labeled the Mercury 13 were barred from becoming astronauts based on their gender. In March 2019, an all-female spacewalk was grounded due to lack of available spacesuit sizes. Over sixty years after NASA was established, we remain in the era of “Firsts” where women are concerned. Aside from Sally Ride, few comprehensive biographies about female astronauts written for adult audiences have been published. Many existing accounts are written for children or teens. Definitive biographies for male astronauts, geared towards adult readers, abound.

Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, devoted her professional career to STEM education for children. Together with long-time partner, Tammy O’Shaughnessy, and others, they founded “Sally Ride Science”. Lynn Sherr’s biography of Ride (Sally Ride) is one of the most comprehensive to-date. And to answer that question: No, 100 is not the right number. Pam Ward’s assured tones delivers an engaging performance for the audiobook production. I’m a huge fan of listening to the history of space exploration and contemporary projects on audiobooks. Thankfully, the Sno-Isle Libraries eAudiobook collection in OverDrive keeps my ears busy. Share your favorites with me in the comments below!

Another first for women arrived on September 12, 1992, as Dr. Mae Jemison became the first female African-American astronaut. Aboard the STS-47 Spacelab-J., Dr. Jemison applied her skills as an engineer and physician in numerous research experiments, which included bone cells, and life science and materials processing. Today, Dr. Jemison advocates for science and technology opportunities for youth worldwide through her company, the Jemison GroupMae Jemison by Charlotte Taylor, a biography written for young people, delves further into her contributions to the body of scientific knowledge.

Learn more about the amazing women whose contributions have advanced our knowledge of the universe and life on Earth with this list! If you’re keen on space history, I highly recommend visiting the Museum of Flight in Seattle to check out the Apollo 11 exhibit.

To Infinity and Beyond: Female Astronauts

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