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Women with the Right Stuff: NASA's first Female Astronaut Candidates

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

#20 Science in History

13 January 1978

On this day in 1978, NASA made history by selecting six women as their first female astronaut candidates.

Left to right: Shannon W. Lucid, Margaret Rhea Seddon, Kathryn D. Sullivan,

Judith A. Resnik, Anna L. Fisher, and Sally K. Ride. (Image Credit: NASA)

They were enrolled in a training program that they completed in August 1979. All of them were accomplished scientists and engineers, with backgrounds in fields such as physics, biochemistry, and medicine.

The selection marked the first time that women were given the opportunity to compete for astronaut positions on an equal footing with men. Prior to this, women had been excluded from the astronaut corps due to a variety of factors, including societal biases and misconceptions about their abilities.

The selection process was rigorous and competitive, with thousands of applicants vying for the limited number of spots available. The six women who were selected had to pass a series of rigorous physical and psychological tests, as well as demonstrate their technical expertise in fields such as mathematics, engineering, and physics.

Despite the challenges they faced, they persevered and made significant contributions to the field of space exploration. Shannon Lucid, for example, set a record for the longest duration spaceflight by an American astronaut, while Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.

This historic event not only paved the way for other women to follow in their footsteps, but it also helped to change perceptions about the capabilities of women in STEM fields. Today, NASA continues to actively recruit and support women in its astronaut corps, and many other organizations have also made strides in increasing the representation of women in leadership roles.


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