ROCKETHOMMAGE for this year's Women's Day

We dedicate International Women's Day to the pioneers of space travel and introduce you to 9 exciting and inspiring female astronauts!

Who was the first man on the moon? That's right, Neil Armstrong! That was in 1969, when 500 to 600 million people watched the moon landing on their televisions. And his female counterpart? Only this year, 55 years later, will a woman travel to our neighbor for the first time: American astronaut Christina Hammock Koch. To mark today's occasion, let's take a look at the women who have already left our home planet and are unfortunately far too unknown!

1963: The Russian Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space. She orbited the Earth 48 times with her spaceship.(Image material: alliance/dpa)
1983: Sally Ride was not only the first American woman in space, but at the age of 32 she was also the youngest person ever sent into space for the USA.(Image material: NASA)
1991: Helen Sharman was the first British woman in space. Great Britain was thus the first country to select a woman as its first astronaut.(Image material: NASA)
1993: American Eileen Collins was the first woman to sit in the pilot's seat of the space shuttle. Two years later, she flew the first American space shuttle in history to fly to the Russian station. Six years later, she was given command of the space shuttle, making her the first female commander in the history of female space travel.(Image material: NASA)
 2002: US astronaut Peggy Whitson holds several records. At 665 days, she is not only the woman with the longest total time spent in space, she also holds the record for the longest total time spent by a woman outside a spacecraft, with a total of 60 hours and 21 minutes.(Image material: NASA)
2020: Christina Hammock Koch can claim the record for the longest stay in space among women. The US astronaut returned to Earth on February 6, 2020 after 328 days on the ISS.(Image material: NASA
2022: During her return to the ISS in 2022, Italian Samantha Cristoforetti became the first European female commander of the ISS.(Image material: ESA)

Space as a male domain

By March 2023, a total of 635 people had flown into space. But only 72 of them were women. Why is that? In the 1960s, for example, only those who were test pilots were allowed to become astronauts at NASA, and women were not allowed to do this job at the time.

Even though these regulations no longer apply, the proportion of women in the STEM subjects required for an astronaut's career was only 31% in Germany and 35% in the USA five years ago.

"Many women only apply when they meet the expectations 100 percent, while quite a few men dare to do so at 60 percent."

says aerospace engineer Claudia Kessler, who founded the initiative Die Astronautin in 2015. ESA has been committed to diversity and gender equality for two years and the proportion of female applicants actually rose from 23% to 28% between 2017 and 2018. The USA and Canada are taking an alternative approach: since the 2017 astronaut selection process, gender has been a voluntary

2024: The woman in the moon?

With the "Innovative Women in Focus " funding guideline, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports research and implementation projects that make women more visible with their innovative ideas and scientific achievements. The US space agency NASA is planning to put a woman on the moon for the first time with the Artemis program . As early as the end of 2024, four people are to orbit the moon as part of the mission, including NASA astronaut Christina Hammock Koch.

Arguments for more women in space are also provided by a recent ESA study, which found that the female metabolism works more efficiently, even with identical measurements. Women consume fewer calories, oxygen and water than men. They release less carbon dioxide and heat. For example, a female team of four on a long-term mission of 1,080 days on board requires almost 1,700 kilos less food than a male team. This would not only save a lot of space, but also over 150 million dollars.

In the end, however, enough women have to decide to send in an application at all. And for those women, and especially for young women, the astronauts mentioned above are role models and inspiration! Let's go, rocketgirls!


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