Recently on Wednesday (Aug 27), NASA organized a special event where they commemorated the 100th anniversary of when some American women won the right to vote by celebrating today’s female pioneers, who are spreading their wings far into space which includes questions and comments from numerous prominent women in space. This was broadcasted live on NASA TV which is now also available on YouTube.

The event was “Past, Present and Future of Women in Space” featuring four women who have made their mark in the space program.

“We’re working towards diversity and inclusion for women,” Christyl Johnson, who manages the research and development portfolio for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said during the event. “That makes this place a wonderful place to be.”

Some key points from “Past, Present and Future of Women in Space” which can inspire us all;

  • Clara Ma named NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover in 2009, when she was only in sixth grade. She said that NASA gave her opportunities she never could have imagined while a young student. “I started out as a very shy, very antisocial girl,” Ma said, but when thrust into media interviews about her winning essay on Curiosity, she discovered her opinions were valued. “I didn’t feel like I had a voice worth listening to [at first], and NASA changed all that.”
  • Black astronaut Stephanie Wilson is a three-time space shuttle veteran, having flown on STS-121 in 2006, STS-120 in 2007 and STS-131 in 2010. She quoted “I had a conflict between science and engineering,” she recalled, saying she was really interested in design as well. Aerospace engineering allowed her to combine both interests, and flying aboard a spacecraft after helping design them was “icing on the cake.”
  • The first woman launch director, Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, said that the ratification of the 19th Amendment not only gave many American women the right to vote, but “it enabled the path that eventually all of us were able to walk down.”
  • Kathy Lueders, who a few weeks ago became the first woman chosen to lead NASA’s human exploration program, also delivered a video statement. “There have been a lot of people that have reached down and pulled me up, and are the reason I’m here today,” she said. “Why is this important? This is important because we have big problems. That’s why we’re here — to solve big problems.”
Four women serving together on the International Space Station on April 14, 2010, represented the highest number of women in space simultaneously. Clockwise from lower right are NASA astronauts Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, both STS-131 mission specialists; and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Expedition 23 flight engineer; along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, STS-131 mission specialist. 
(Image: © NASA)

No doubt women are shining and spreading their wings. Recent female milestones at NASA include the first all-woman spacewalk by Jessica Meir and Christina Koch last year. The longest single stay in space by a woman at 328 days and the first woman to command the International Space Station twice (Peggy Whitson in 2016). And more to come for sure.

Women are continuing to reach milestones worth celebrating. Another milestone may be coming soon; Jeanette Epps was just named to a commercial crew flight on a Boeing spacecraft. She will likely become the first female Black astronaut to complete a long-duration mission.

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