5 Real Women Who Paved the Way For Our Fictional Space Captains

Powered by Geek & Sundry

We live in an amazing time of science and space exploration both in the real world and in fiction. Where characters like Leia, Ripley, and Janeway have lead the way for our own fictional characters such as Lucy Bard on VAST; we must remember that there are women out there who have actually touched the stars. The stories of these heroes feed into the exploits of our fictional ones. Before you start aiming for the stars in a good story, maybe it’s time we looked back at some of the heroes who help to take us there.

Here are five women who lead the way into space.

Valentina Tereshkova – (1963)

The first woman in space. The cosmonaut who paved the way for every other name on this list. Selected from four-hundred candidates, she launched on June 16, 1963. Answering to the callsign Chaika (meaning “seagull”), she orbited the Earth for three days (forty-eight times), accumulating more time in space than all prior American astronauts combined. It would be nineteen years until her successor, Svetlana Savitskaya, became the second woman to go to space.

(Photo from Wikipedia, Alexander Mokletsov)

Sally Ride – (1983)

The first American woman in space (and third overall). Selected from eight-thousand applicants, she joined NASA in 1978.  In her early career on the ground, she (among other things) helped develop the space shuttle’s robot arm. Then on June 18, 1983 she joined the crew of the space shuttle Challenger and became the first person to use that robot arm to retrieve a satellite. She would go on two more shuttle missions, clocking a total of three-hundred and forty-three hours in space.

(Photo from Wikipedia, Public Domain)

Mae Carol Jemison – (1992)

A physician and engineer who was not only the the first black woman in space, but is also a HUGE Star Trek nerd. She was inspired to join NASA by Lieutenant Uhura, began each of her shifts in space by informing mission control that hailing frequencies were open and in 1993 became the first real astronaut on Star Trek, appearing as a crew member of the Enterprise-D on Next Gen. She conducted forty-three scientific experiments on the fiftieth shuttle mission, a joint effort of the U.S. and Japan. All told she logged over one-hundred and ninety hours in space.

(Photo from Wikipedia, Public Domain)

Eileen Collins – (1999)

Makes this list just for being the first female Commander of a Space Shuttle, and therefore, in our judgment, the original lady Starship Captain. In 1995, she first went up as a pilot on a mission that had her taking the shuttle on a close approach to the Russian space station Mir. In 1999, she’d return, but this time as a Commander on a mission to deploy a space observatory. In 2005, Collins heroically helped prevent another Columbia style disaster by becoming the first astronaut the fly the shuttle through a 360-degree pitch maneuver so that the International Space Station could photographically inspect the shuttle’s belly for damage.

(Photo from Wikipedia, Public Domain)

Liu Yang – (2012)

Launched June 16, 2012, exactly forty-nine years after Valentina Tereshkova’s first mission, Liu Yang became the first Chinese woman in space. An air force pilot with over sixteen hundred hours of flying experience, she was selected to pilot the Shenzhou 9 shuttle on the first manned mission to the space station Tiangong 1. While on the station she helped performed space medicine experiments.

(Photo from Wikipedia C.O. CUHK, Tksteven)

These astronauts and their peers are an inspiration not only to the creators of VAST, but to people everywhere. Who are some other astronauts or space program scientists you think people should know about? Sound off in the comments below. And don’t forget to check out Vast, Mondays at 7:00 pm PDT on Alpha!

Feature Image photo from Wikipedia, Public Domain

Top Stories
Trending Topics