Here at MakeCrate we have a particular fondness for women in STEM. After all, our founder is a woman. We also have a fondness for space. Because SPACE! So we thought it’d be fun to put the two together and celebrate just a fraction of the records, accomplishments, and milestones set by women in the space program.
“In this field where milestones are the norm, we are standing on the shoulders of many giants,” Dava Newman, NASA’s deputy administrator wrote in a recent blog post about pioneering women in NASA’s history. “Female pioneers from the entire history of aviation and space history have helped us get to the point where were are now – on a journey to Mars and with many capabilities to help us search for life elsewhere in the solar system and beyond.”
Sally Ride, the first American woman to go into space, is one of the best-known astronauts in American history — not only because of her pioneering flight but also because of her fantastic outreach work and engagement with the public. But what many people may not realize is that Ride still holds the record for the youngest American ever to fly in space (she was 32).
Sunita Williams was also the first person to run a marathon in space — using the space station treadmill, she ran the Boston marathon in 2007. And as if she hadn’t broken enough records, Williams is scheduled to be one of the first NASA astronauts to catch a ride into space in a commercial spacecraft. She also is one of the few astronauts that has over 50 cumulative hours of spacewalk time. That places Williams on the top-10 list of space travelers with the most cumulative spacewalk time, and in the top five among NASA astronauts.
Besides breaking records in orbit, women have played a leading role in advancing NASA’s spaceflight program on the ground. These accomplishments are more difficult to keep track of, for both men and women, as they tend to take place in the background. In one of our previous posts, we featured Katherine Johnson, an African American mathematician who calculated the trajectories for the first American human orbit of the Earth, as well as the trajectory of the Apollo 11 module to the moon.
In addition, Thora Halstead is “credited with helping to establish the field of space biology before there was such a discipline,” according to NASA. Halstead founded the American Society for Gravitational Space Biology (ASGSB), which is now known as the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research.
It is notable when women break records and accomplish things that no other woman has ever done, for much the same reason that it is notable when people from other historically marginalized groups break through similar barriers. But women are also keeping pace with their male colleagues — setting the standard and, at times, racing past them.
Fun Fact: In 2013, NASA’s newest astronaut class consisted of four men and four women. The 50/50 split marks the highest percentage of women in an astronaut class in NASA history.