Kennedy Space Center Tickets

Discover the inspiring stories of women in space exploration

Kennedy Space CenterWomen in Space
Kennedy Space Center Women in space

With NASA aiming to land the first woman on the Moon in the coming years, we take a look at the long standing history of the women who dared to reach out to space. As of 29 February 2024, 75 women have flown to space. But womankind’s contribution to space exploration far exceeds that. From space research to critical engineering, we take a look at how the female workforce has impacted space science over the years.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Pearl I. Young

In 1922, back when NASA was known as the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, a female technical employee was hired making her the first female scientist in the U.S. Space agency. Physicist Pearl I. Young paved the way for women to enter into the field of space science as working professionals.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova

It’s not always about breaking the glass ceiling. Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova went one step further and broke through the Earth’s Exosphere to become the first female astronaut to travel into space. She completed a three-day mission aboard the Vostok 6 spacecraft and is the first woman to orbit the Earth.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Svetlana Yevgenyevna Savitskaya

On 19 August 1982, Russian astronaut Svetlana Yevgenyevna Savitskaya and two of her crewmates aboard Soyuz T-7 joined the two long-duration resident crewmembers aboard Salyut 7 space station making this the first mixed-gender crew in a space station.

Svetlana went to space not once, but twice, and was the first woman to do so. During her second flight to Salyut 7, she became the first woman to participate in a spacewalk.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Sally K. Ride

18 June 1983 was a special day for America. Astronaut Sally K. Ride made history by becoming the first American woman in space. She spent seven days aboard space shuttle Challenger during NASA’s STS-7 mission.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Dr. Mae Carol Jemison

Aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour's STS-47 was Dr. Mae Carol Jemison, making her the first African American woman in space as a crew member. She conducted numerous life and materials sciences experiments during the eight-day flight.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Susan Jane Helms

Astronaut Susan Jane Helms was the first woman to complete a long-duration mission on NASA’s International Space Station. She was also the first woman to complete an 8-hour and 56 minute spacewalk along with fellow astronaut James Shelton Voss.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Eileen M. Collins

Eileen M. Collins was the first woman pilot of a space shuttle mission on the STS-63. She also became the first female commander during the historic STS-114. The mission, which was Eileen’s fourth space flight, was dubbed the “Return to Flight” mission since it was the first shuttle mission to fly after the space shuttle Columbia broke apart during reentry on 1 February 2003.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Mary W. Jackson

Mary W. Jackson worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’s West Area Computing unit, a group of African American women who manually performed complex mathematical calculations for the program’s engineers. These pioneering women did a significant number of the calculations needed for space flight. Mary went on to become the first black woman to be an engineer at NASA in 1958.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson was responsible for calculations that made possible the first American orbital space flights, the Apollo missions and the Space Shuttle programme. Her work calculating and analyzing the flight paths of many spacecraft during her career helped send astronauts to the Moon. At age 97, she was awarded America’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Barack Obama.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Dorothy Vaughan

Mathematician Dorothy Vaughan was the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics first black supervisor. She helped her department transition to computers in the early 1960s by teaching herself and her staff the programming language Fortran.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Judith Love Cohen

American aerospace engineer Judith Love Cohen’s work on the Abort-Guidance System is credited with helping save Apollo 13 after an oxygen tank explosion left the Service Module crippled and forced the astronauts to use the Lunar Module as a "lifeboat."

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Kitty Joyner

In 1939, Kitty Joyner created history by becoming Langley Research Center’s first female engineer. She was also the first woman to graduate from the University of Virginia after suing the University so she could enter the all-male engineering school.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Dr. Nancy Grace Roman

Dr. Nancy Grace Roman, also known as the "Mother of Hubble", pushed the first major space-based telescope from hopeful speculation to reality. Her duties at NASA involved securing and administering grant funding for different missions. In 2020, NASA announced that the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope would be named the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope after Roman.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Holly Riding

Holly Ridings oversaw NASA’s human spaceflight operations through the first commercial crew missions to the International Space Station and the preparation for the Artemis I mission as NASA’s first female chief flight director.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Jessica Meir

Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made space history when they completed the first-ever spacewalk by an all-woman team in 2019.

Kennedy Space Center Women in space

Christina Koch

Christina Koch, who set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman with a total of 328 days in space, is also set to be the first woman to land on the Moon on the Artemis II mission. She is a Mission Specialist among the four astronauts who will venture in the first crewed mission on NASA's path to establishing a long-term presence at the Moon.

Aside from these heroes, there are countless women behind the scenes making their mark in space exploration and research every single day. Every year, the Kennedy Space Center celebrates Women's History Month with a series of events led by women in the field. To learn more about their stories and meet an astronaut, visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Frequently asked questions about women in space

Who was the first woman in space?

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkov was the first woman in space. On 16 June 1963, she flew into space on a solo mission aboard Vostok 6.

Are there any female astronauts currently on the International Space Station?

NASA astronauts Loral O’Hara,Jasmin Moghbeli and Mission Specialist Jeanette Epps are currently on board the International Space Station.

How many women have traveled to space?

75 women have flown in space as of 29 February 2024.

Have any women walked on the Moon?

While no woman has landed on the Moon yet, Christina Koch is set to be the first woman to land on the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis missions.

What are some notable achievements of female astronauts?

Female astronauts have achieved significant milestones in space exploration, including Sally Ride's historic 1983 flight as the first American woman in space, Svetlana Savitskaya several space flights, school teacher Sharon Christa McAuliffe’s brave attempt at teaching millions of students while in orbit, and Peggy Whitson's record-breaking tenure aboard the International Space Station, inspiring generations and advancing scientific knowledge.