11 Women Astronauts Who Changed Space Flights Forever

By Raza Mehdi

Sep 15, 2022

Valentina Tereshkova is a trailblazer whose list of firsts is formidable: the first woman in space, the youngest woman in space, the first civilian in space and the only woman to fly solo in space.

Valentina Tereshkova

A daredevil from a young age, Svetlana had already completed 450 parachute jumps at the age of 17. On July 25, 1984, she became the first woman to spacewalk for 3 hours and 35 minutes.

Svetlana Savitskaya

Physicist Sally Ride flew aboard NASA's Space Shuttle STS-7 in June 1983 and was the first American woman in space. The STS-7 crew deployed two communications satellites and conducted experiments.

Sally Ride

Jemison is an engineer and physician, who was chosen for NASA's astronaut programme in 1987. In 1992, she became the first black woman to orbit the Earth for eight days.

Mae Jemison

Helms was the first woman from a military background to go into space. An assistant professor of aeronautics, Helms was chosen by NASA in 1990 and made five spaceflights between 1993 and 2001.

Susan Helms

Whitson was the first female commander of the International Space Station and holds the record for most cumulative days living and working in space by a NASA astronaut at 665 days.

Peggy Whitson

Koch was part of three all-women spacewalks carried out successfully. Her significant achievement is that she holds the record for the longest time (328 days) in space during a single mission by a woman.

Christina Koch

In 1990, Sullivan helped launch, repair, and maintain the Hubble Space Telescope. In 2020, she also became the first woman to dive to the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the Earth's oceans.

Kathy Sullivan

Collins was a military instructor and test pilot who became the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle in 1995. She made history again in 1999 by commanding a Space Shuttle mission.

Eileen Collins

Serving as a major in the Chinese air force, Liu Yang became the first woman from China in space when she launched aboard Shenzhou 9, bound for China's first space lab, Tiangong-1.

Liu Yang

She became the first Indian-born woman to go to space in 1997. Six years later, on February 1, 2003, Chawla died when the space shuttle Columbia broke down during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

Kalpana Chawla