It’s full of stars…

// 5 April 2010

Nice to see a technical field where women are in the spotlight – and over 30. Today, 5 April, the Space Shuttle Discovery successfully blasted off into orbit and in the process set a record for the most women in space at the same time.

Via the Times Online:

Three women are aboard Discovery and another already is at the $100 billion (£66 billion) International Space Station (ISS), nearly 50 years after the Soviet Union put the first woman into orbit.

Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, 34, Stephanie Wilson, 43, and Naoko Yamazaki, 39, blasted-off from Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 6.21am local time today. They are due to dock at the ISS on Wednesday, linking up with Tracy Caldwell Dyson, 40.

This brings the total number of women to have flown in space to 54, although women still account for a disproprtionately low number of the total of 517 space travellers overall.

Ms Wilson said: “I’d love to have those numbers be higher, but I think that we have made a great start and have paved the way, with women now being able to perform the same duties as men in space flight.”


Official Crew Photo via Wikipedia. Seated: James Dutton (left) Alan Poindexter (right); Standing (l-r): Rick Mastracchio, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Naoko Yamazaki (JAXA) and Clayton Anderson

Comments From You

Troon // Posted 5 April 2010 at 3:48 pm

Of course, if they’d actually gone on the result of the initial aptitude tests in the 1960s, rather than redrafting and eventually just ignoring the process, the first westerner in space would have been a woman, and the first human on the moon.

But a good day nevertheless.

aimee // Posted 6 April 2010 at 11:12 am

Loving the Space Odyssey reference! :)

This is great! There needs to be more women in the space programme. A recent article in BBC focus science magazine really pissed me off for it’s complete lack of female inclusion. I mean the whole thing was geared towards men. But this is great!

naomi // Posted 6 April 2010 at 1:25 pm

The first Briton in space was a woman. That’s a pretty amazing fact, right? Is it common knowledge? I hope so, but I get the feeling it’s something some people would rather forget.

Jeff // Posted 6 April 2010 at 1:51 pm

This is great news, spaceflight is one of those highly technical and demanding industries that it’s vital to get more women into. More so than most, indeed, because of the high publicity that surrounds the industry.

On the flipside however, though America and Russia are getting there in terms of gender representation in space, the European Space Agency’s astronaut corps (to which the UK sends it’s astronaut candidates) has currently only one female (and, incidentally, one ethnic minority) astronaut out of the fourteen current astronauts. She has not yet flown. There have only been two other female astronauts in the history of the ESA (out of a total of 28), one of which flew twice, and one of which never flew at all, she is the ONLY ESA astronaut to have never flown a single mission. So, it might look promising over the pond, but on the continent it’s anything but. Since the ESA selected it’s latest astronauts last year, you can expect at least another two years before they select more.

Jeff // Posted 6 April 2010 at 1:52 pm

Excuse me, slight correction there, I should say “She is the only ESA astronaut to have retired before flying a single mission” since, obviously, their newest astronauts are still in training, and have not yet flown.

Lynne Miles // Posted 6 April 2010 at 6:17 pm

Awesome! I think we should start a Gallery of Kick Ass Women and these should definitely be in there.

Ally // Posted 6 April 2010 at 7:01 pm

I really hate the way being a woman makes your career success (or lack thereof) something for public study and general debate in these kinds of situations. I know that’s not the point you were trying to make Troon, and we do need to find out why women aren’t getting the same promotions and opportunities, but as someone who is not finding making a career for myself easy (even though still at the very lowest level having yet to graduate). I just feel like my whole life people are going to be examining my career (or rather that of women like me) going is that sexism? Hmmm well, considering this, this, this this, ah no actually that one just wasn’t up to it. It feels like its not just the right to the opportunities to reach the top women don’t get, but the right to fuck up in peace and not feel like you are letting the side down.

Ally // Posted 6 April 2010 at 7:02 pm

Sorry, it was actually Jeff.

Jeff // Posted 6 April 2010 at 7:14 pm


I get what you’re saying, but unfortunatly I think it’s important to hold up women in spectacular jobs like this in order to break down the idea that some people have that women aren’t as good at most job’s as men. Because a lot of people still do believe that tripe, people who’ve as much chance of becoming an astronaut as the Lib Dem’s have of getting a majority still honestly believe that they can do any job better than a woman, and pointing at succesful women like the four orbitting earth is a great way of saying “Actually, no, I’m pretty sure you can’t”.

In an ideal world, of course, nobody will need to scrutinise your career path and draw conclusions about potential sexism, or about your gender in general. Unfortunatly though, society is (despite what some would have you believe) still really rather sexist, and that ideal world is rather a long way off.

Jeff // Posted 6 April 2010 at 7:15 pm

Re-reading that comment, it seems a little confrontational to me, I really didn’t mean it that way though, so please excuse any offence!

Ally // Posted 6 April 2010 at 7:28 pm

I was more commenting on the fact that we needed to hear that she was the only astronaut to have retired without a mission. I accept that we need to have these discussions in order to move forward- in the mean time it just seems the privilege to fuck up in peace is something men are going to have to retain as the collateral damage for allowing us to move forward.

Shea // Posted 6 April 2010 at 8:42 pm

I agree with Ally on this one.

This is brilliant in itself. But it does feel that a woman has to be exceptional in her role because if she isn’t she’s letting down the whole side. Whereas happily men can and do mess up all the time without the majority of men being held to be awful in that field. Real progress will be when women can make such a disastrous mess in the financial markets and economy as men and still get away with it.

Really its the privilege of being able to try something and fail, which is still the exclusive preserve of men.

There is still this essentialist thinking about women underneath all of this which is very annoying.

Elmo // Posted 11 April 2010 at 6:09 pm

Both the Now Show and Have I Got News For You did a very tired joke about the female astronauts all turning up in the same outfit (ie a space suit). Aha. Ahahaha. Ha. Seriously, were do they get these jokes, a book called “jokes about women and work that can be thinly disguised as ironic and therefore acceptable” circa 1962. pft.

Normally I like the Now Show

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