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The Top 6 Female Astronauts Every Scientista Should Know About

Weird Science

The Top 6 Female Astronauts Every Scientista Should Know About




Identifying the top six female astronauts is a daunting task. So many outstanding women have made important contributions to human spaceflight, and we’ve gained remarkable insights from their efforts. It was difficult get the list down to just six.

Researching these wonderful women, I was humbled and awed. I finally whittled my shortlist down to the following six astronauts, listed in chronological flight order. They came from ordinary backgrounds like you and me, but they knew how to dream big and had the ambition to take it all the way.

Valentina Tereshkova, “First Lady of Space”

While in orbit, Tereshkova conducted biomedical & science experiments to learn about the effects of space on the human body, took photographs that helped identify aerosols in the earth’s atmosphere, and manually piloted the ship. The Soviets’ space missions were timed so closely that Tereshkova’s Vostok 6 capsule and the Vostok 5 actually passed within 3 miles of each other, and she spoke to her fellow cosmonaut, Valery Bykovsky, over the radio during her flight.

Tereshkova, whose call sign was “Seagull,” was one of four females selected to the Cosmonaut Corps, and the only one from her group to ever fly in space. In her daily life she was a textile worker, but she was also an expert parachutist, a critical skill for cosmonauts flying those early missions. After re-entry and descent, the only way to get back to Earth was to eject at about 7,000 feet with a parachute, because the Vostok capsules could not land safely. After Tereshkova’s successful mission, space travel remained exclusive to males for close to 20 years. (Svetlana Savitskaya and Sally Ride broke that streak in 1982 and 1983, respectively.)

After her flight on Vostok 6, Tereshkova studied at the Zhukovsky Air Force Academy, graduating with distinction as a cosmonaut engineer; she then went on to earn a doctorate in engineering.

Dr. Tereshkova eventually rose to prominence as a politician and remains politically active today. At age 76, on the 50th anniversary of her flight on Vostok 6, she once again displayed her pioneering spirit by raising her hand to take a one-way flight to her favorite planet, Mars. “Of course, it’s a dream to go to Mars and find out whether there was life there or not,” Tereshkova said. “If there was, then why did it die out? What sort of catastrophe happened?” Given the opportunity, this amazing woman would undoubtedly help us find out

Sally Ride, First American Woman in Space

Dr. Sally Ride is celebrated as the first American woman and youngest American astronaut to travel into space. She served as CapCom (capsule communicator) for the second- and third-ever Shuttle flights, and helped to develop the Space Shuttle’s robotic arm.

Ride flew two space missions (STS-7 and STS-61), both aboard Challenger, serving in the capacity of mission specialist. The purpose of these missions was to deploy satellites and perform pharmaceutical experiments.  Ride was the first person to use the robotic arm to retrieve a satellite and the first woman to use the arm in space.

Ride spent several years working at NASA headquarters, where she founded NASA’s Office of Exploration. She also served on the Presidential Commissions that investigated both the Challenger and Columbia disasters.

She wrote or co-wrote seven books on space aimed at children, with the goal of encouraging children to study science. She became a physics professor and the director of the California Space Institute, and also led public outreach programs through NASA, including making photos from the ISS EarthKAM and the GRAIL MoonKAM accessible to middle school children.. Dr. Ride also created a company called “Sally Ride Science, “ which focuses on creating entertaining science programs with an emphasis on STEM learning for girls.

Sally Ride lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in 2012 at age 61, leaving an amazing legacy of inspiration and education as a result of her lifelong dedication to science and space.

Mae Jemison, First Black Woman to Travel to Space

Dr. Mae Jemison drew her spacefaring inspiration from Sally Ride and Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played Lieutenant Uhura in the original Star Trek series. After serving as a physician in the Peace Corps, Jemison applied to the Astronaut Corps. Her acceptance to the astronaut training program was delayed due to the Challenger disaster, but Jemison was finally selected and joined NASA in 1987.

On Sept. 12, 1992, Dr. Jemison became the first African American woman in space on Space Shuttle Endeavour’s second flight, which carried her and six other astronauts into space for eight days. She served as Mission Specialist and worked on the bone cell research experiment flown on STS-37, a cooperative mission between the United States and Japan.

Jemison left NASA in March 1993 and went on to teach at Dartmouth College. She also founded her own company, the Jemison Group, working on sustainable energy development projects and satellite-based telecommunications to facilitate health care delivery in West Africa. Dr. Jemison is a strong advocate for science, establishing an international science camp for high school students and working on the 100-Year Starship program.

As if all of these accomplishments were not enough, Dr. Jemison realized one other very special dream when she appeared as a guest on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Eileen Collins, First Female Space Shuttle Pilot and Commander

Piloting Discovery in 1995, Collins served as second-in-command for the United States’ historic rendezvous with the Mir space station. After taking time off to have her daughter, she returned to space in 1997, piloting a second trip to Mir aboard Atlantis. Her next mission was aboard Columbia, where she served as commander to the crew that deployed the Chandra X-Ray telescope.

Col. Collins’ final flight. STS-114, took place aboard Discovery in 2005, when Collins commanded NASA’s “return to flight” mission to test safety improvements and resupply the International Space Station (ISS). During this mission, Collins became the first astronaut to fly the Space Shuttle through a 360-degree pitch maneuver, which enabled astronauts aboard the ISS to take photographs of the Shuttle’s underside to ensure its safety.

Collins holds degrees in math, science, and space systems management. Since her retirement from NASA in 2006, she has made occasional public appearances as an analyst covering Shuttle launches and landings for CNN.

Kalpana Chawla, First Indian-born Female in Space

Dr. Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian-born woman and the second person from India to travel into space. She earned engineering and aerospace engineering degrees in India before settling in the U.S., where she earned her PhD in aerospace engineering and began her work for NASA at the Ames Research Center in 1988.  

She was selected for the Astronaut Corps in 1994 and took her first flight (STS-87) aboard Columbia. During that mission she deployed the Spartan Satellite, which malfunctioned due to a software problem, necessitating a 2-man spacewalk to retrieve it.

After STS-87 Chawla worked at NASA on technical projects for the Space Station, and was selected to fly again as a mission specialist for STS-107, which eventually got off the ground aboard Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.

Columbia carried a SPACEHAB module to the ISS, where Chawla and her fellow astronauts performed more than 80 experiments on microgravity, atmospheric dust, and astronaut safety.

The mission was successful until disaster struck during re-entry, when the orbiter’s wing overheated and came apart, leading to complete destruction of the vehicle. The damage to the wing had occurred upon liftoff, when a piece of foam damaged heat-resistant tiles that were critical to the integrity of the Shuttle’s structure during re-entry. All of the crew members were lost as the world watched, helpless.

After her death, Dr. Chawla was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the NASA Space Flight Medal, and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.

Barbara Morgan, First Teacher in Space

Barbara Morgan began her space career as an elementary school science teacher from Idaho. She was selected for the “Teacher in Space” program as backup to Christa McAuliffe, and the two trained together before McAuliffe’s ill-fated mission aboard Challenger in 1986, where all of the crew lost their lives shortly after liftoffThe “Teacher in Space” program was cancelled after the Challenger disaster, but Morgan decided to press on, pursuing her dream of space. Her famous quote during that time was, “I want to get some stardust on me.”

She continued teaching science and also worked with NASA’s education division, contributing heavily to science education and serving on the National Science Foundation’s Federal Task Force for Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering.

In 1998, Morgan was chosen by NASA to become a mission specialist and underwent training at Johnson Space Center. She worked there as CapCom and also earned an amateur radio license, qualifying her to conduct radio communications with students on Earth as part of the ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) program.

She was scheduled to be on a Columbia flight – the next mission after the disaster occurred. After the tragic loss of the Columbia crew, it took another four years before Morgan actually went into space.  In 2007, she lifted off on Endeavor as mission specialist for the STS-118 crew. During the 13-day mission, Morgan was in charge of all payloads and operated a robotic arm to transfer a platform to the ISS. She also answered questions from students via satellite, something McAuliffe had hoped to do.

Now retired from NASA, Morgan remains a dedicated educator and works for Boise State University promoting STEM education. Of her time in space, Morgan says, “Yes, actually I did get some stardust on me. We all got some stardust on us.”

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What would happen to your body in space? Here are 7 Fun facts (well not so fun):




Why are astronauts always wearing those bulky suits? You don’t NEED them, do you? Here’s what would really happen to an exposed human in the void of space.

The human body, while perfectly suited to conditions on Earth, wouldn’t fare quite so well when exposed to the conditions in outer space. To protect the body, spacewalkers wear spacesuits. These can maintain comfort for the astronaut in varying extreme temperatures, from around minus 150 degrees to plus 120 degrees Celsius. Moreover, they supply oxygen to breathe, water to drink and protection from the impact of tiny particles, bright light, and radiation.

So how long could we last in space without these vital outfits? If for some reason you were to find yourself floating unprotected in space, the experience would be a brief one. You would remain conscious only for a matter of seconds before passing out and dying a few minutes later from oxygen deprivation.

Without air to breathe in the void of space, our instincts might tell us to hold our breath in this situation – but this would be a mistake. The low pressure created in the vacuum would cause any oxygen held to drastically expand, rupturing internal organs.

While spacesuits are lifesaving, travelling into space can still have a huge impact on the body, even with this protection. Those enclosed in space stations are subjected to ten times the radiation experienced naturally on Earth. Astronauts who venture into orbit understand the strains they put their body under. Their specific regimes help to keep this impact on their body to a minimum, exercising daily to keep muscles strong and bone deterioration at bay.

Instant vaporizing

Any liquid exposed on the body will instantly begin to vaporize. Wet surfaces such as the tongue and eyes will start to boil.

15 seconds- Loss of consciousness

You could endure only 15 seconds of outer-space conditions before losing consciousness. This is due to oxygen in the blood rapidly diminishing.

90 seconds- Death by asphyxiation

Around 90 seconds into space exposure, you would die. All oxygen is used up and the body can no longer be sustained.

12 hours- Hot or cold

In some areas of space, extreme temperatures plummet far below zero, while near the Sun temperatures soar. Between 12 and 26 hours the entire body would either be frozen or burnt to a crisp.

Beginning to bubble

19,202 meters or higher above Earth in outer space, extremely low atmospheric pressure causes body fluids to bubble within the tissues.

Extreme expanding

Human flesh would expand to twice its size in a ballooning effect, but your elastic skin will still hold you together.

Changing color

As oxygen leaves the blood, skin color is altered. The body would adopt a pale-blue tinge. After one-minute circulation would stop altogether.

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Weird Science

15 Amazing and fun science facts that will completely blow your mind!




Impress your friends with these incredible facts about the world around us!

1. Babies have around 100 more bones than adults

Babies have about 300 bones at birth, with cartilage between many of them. This extra flexibility helps them pass through the birth canal and also allows for rapid growth. With age, many of the bones fuse, leaving 206 bones that make up an average adult skeleton.

2. The Eiffel Tower can be 15 cm taller during the summer

When a substance is heated up, its particles move more and it takes up a larger volume – this is known as thermal expansion. Conversely, a drop in temperature causes it to contract again. The mercury level inside a thermometer, for example, rises and falls as the mercury’s volume changes with the ambient temperature. This effect is most dramatic in gases but occurs in liquids and solids such as iron too. For this reason, large structures such as bridges are built with expansion joints which allow them some leeway to expand and contract without causing any damage.

3. 20% of Earth’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest

Our atmosphere is made up of roughly 78 per cent nitrogen and 21 per cent oxygen, with various other gases present in small amounts. The vast majority of living organisms on Earth need oxygen to survive, converting it into carbon dioxide as they breathe. Thankfully, plants continually replenish our planet’s oxygen levels through photosynthesis. During this process, carbon dioxide and water are converted into energy, releasing oxygen as a by-product. Covering 5.5 million square kilometres (2.1 million square miles), the Amazon rainforest cycles a significant proportion of the Earth’s oxygen, absorbing large quantities of carbon dioxide at the same time.

4. Some metals are so reactive that they explode on contact with water

There are certain metals – including potassium, sodium, lithium, rubidium and caesium – that are so reactive that they oxidise (or tarnish) instantly when exposed to air. They can even produce explosions when dropped in water! All elements strive to be chemically stable – in other words, to have a full outer electron shell. To achieve this, metals tend to shed electrons. The alkali metals have only one electron on their outer shell, making them ultra-keen to pass on this unwanted passenger to another element via bonding. As a result they form compounds with other elements so readily that they don’t exist independently in nature.

5. A teaspoonful of neutron star would weigh 6 billion tons

A neutron star is the remnants of a massive star that has run out of fuel. The dying star explodes in a supernova while its core collapses in on itself due to gravity, forming a super-dense neutron star. Astronomers measure the mind-bogglingly large masses of stars or galaxies in solar masses, with one solar mass equal to the Sun’s mass (that is, 2 x 1030 kilograms/4.4 x 1030 pounds). Typical neutron stars have a mass of up to three solar masses, which is crammed into a sphere with a radius of approximately ten kilometers (6.2 miles) – resulting in some of the densest matter in the known universe.

6. Hawaii moves 7.5cm closer to Alaska every year

The Earth’s crust is split into gigantic pieces called tectonic plates. These plates are in constant motion, propelled by currents in the Earth’s upper mantle. Hot, less-dense rock rises before cooling and sinking, giving rise to circular convection currents which act like giant conveyor belts, slowly shifting the tectonic plates above them. Hawaii sits in the middle of the Pacific Plate, which is slowly drifting north-west towards the North American Plate, back to Alaska. The plates’ pace is comparable to the speed at which our fingernails grow.

7. Chalk is made from trillions of microscopic plankton fossils

Tiny single-celled algae called coccolithophores have lived in Earth’s oceans for 200 million years. Unlike any other marine plant, they surround themselves with minuscule plates of calcite (coccoliths). Just under 100 million years ago, conditions were just right for coccolithophores to accumulate in a thick layer coating ocean floors in a white ooze. As further sediment built up on top, the pressure compressed the coccoliths to form rock, creating chalk deposits such as the white cliffs of Dover. Coccolithophores are just one of many prehistoric species that have been immortalized in fossil form, but how do we know how old they are? Over time, rock forms in horizontal layers, leaving older rocks at the bottom and younger rocks near the top. By studying the type of rock in which a fossil is found paleontologists can roughly guess its age. Carbon dating estimates a fossil’s age more precisely, based on the rate of decay of radioactive elements such as carbon-14.

8. In 2.3 billion years it will be too hot for life to exist on Earth

Over the coming hundreds of millions of years, the Sun will continue to get progressively brighter and hotter. In just over 2 billion years, temperatures will be high enough to evaporate our oceans, making life on Earth impossible. Our planet will become a vast desert similar to Mars today. As it expands into a red giant in the following few billion years, scientists predict that the Sun will finally engulf Earth altogether, spelling the definite end for our planet.

9. Polar bears are nearly undetectable by infrared cameras

Thermal cameras detect the heat lost by a subject as infrared, but polar bears are experts at conserving heat. The bears keep warm due to a thick layer of blubber under the skin. Add to this a dense fur coat and they can endure the chilliest Arctic day.

10. It takes 8 minutes, 19 seconds for light to travel from the Sun to the Earth

In space, light travels at 300,000 kilometers (186,000 miles) per second. Even at this breakneck speed, covering the 150 million odd kilometers (93 million miles) between us and the Sun takes considerable time. And eight minutes is still very little compared to the five and a half hours it takes for the Sun’s light to reach Pluto.

11. If you took out all the empty space in our atoms, humans could fit in the volume of a sugar cube

The atoms that make up the world around us seem solid but are in fact over 99.99999 per cent empty space. An atom consists of a tiny, dense nucleus surrounded by a cloud of electrons, spread over a proportionately vast area. This is because as well as being particles, electrons act like waves. Electrons can only exist where the crests and troughs of these waves add up correctly. And instead of existing in one point, each electron’s location is spread over a range of probabilities – an orbital. They thus occupy a huge amount of space.

12. Stomach acid is strong enough to dissolve stainless steel

Your stomach digests food thanks to highly corrosive hydrochloric acid with a pH of 2 to 3. This acid also attacks your stomach lining, which protects itself by secreting an alkali bicarbonate solution. The lining still needs to be replaced continually, and it entirely renews itself every four days.

13. The Earth is a giant magnet

Earth’s inner core is a sphere of solid iron, surrounded by liquid iron. Variations in temperature and density create currents in this iron, which in turn produce electrical currents. Lined up by the Earth’s spin, these currents combine to create a magnetic field, used by compass needles worldwide.

14. Venus is the only planet to spin clockwise

Our Solar System started off as a swirling cloud of dust and gas which eventually collapsed into a spinning disc with the Sun at its center. Because of this common origin, all the planets move around the Sun in the same direction and on roughly the same plane. They also all spin in the same direction (counterclockwise if observed from ‘above’) – except Uranus and Venus. Uranus spins on its side, while Venus defiantly spins in the complete opposite direction. The most likely cause of these planetary oddballs are gigantic asteroids which knocked them off course in the distant past.

15. A flea can accelerate faster than the Space Shuttle

A jumping flea reaches dizzying heights of about eight centimeters (three inches) in a millisecond. Acceleration is the change in speed of an object over time, often measured in ‘g’s, with one g equal to the acceleration caused by gravity on Earth (9.8 meters/32.2 feet per square second). Fleas experience 100 g, while the Space Shuttle peaked at around 5 g. The flea’s secret is a stretchy rubber-like protein which allows it to store and release energy like a spring.

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