You might think that having seen Lt. Ellen Ripley in the late seventies film alien or Lt. Uhura from Star Trek that there have been many women in space, the truth is far different. There have been five hundred people (500) who have ventured into space but only fifty-five (55) have been female1. The reasons for the low numbers have been :-
The first woman in space was Valentina Tereshkova, a Russian who was selected to see what the effects of space was on the female body. She was selected after passing a series of tests, designed to find the right person for the experiment as it was back then, an experiment on how women would cope in space. It wouldn't then be for another nineteen years that another woman went into space, again it was Russia and they would send Svetlana Savitskaya into space. During Svetlana's voyage in space, she became the first woman to carry out a space walk and be the first woman to make two spaceflights. During the two female visits into space, United States had successfully built a craft to put a man on the Moon (Neil Armstrong) and return him safely.
In the United States, people were pushing for a woman to go into space and finally N.A.S.A. relented and sent Sally Ride into space in 1984, twenty one years after the first female in space. Equality had finally started to be realised in the United States and since then the number female astronauts although the numbers were still small compared to the number of men going into space has began increasing. There was an unofficial privately funded plan to send at least one female into space known as Mercury 13, 13 being the number of candidate females part of the project. There had been congressional committees on the subject but nothing came of the protests. 2. John Glenn, one of America's first astronauts explained reasons why women couldn't go into space but if he had applied the same criteria to himself, he would been unable to go into space because he didn't have a degree. Lyndon B. Johnson, the President at the time did not see women place in space, he refused to send a letter to James Webb, the NASA Administrator at the time writing on the letter "Let's stop this now!" which put an end to that.3.
The only Briton to have gone into space so far was Helen Sharman who competed against men for the position went up as part of a joint Soviet Union and private backers project. It is not official British Government policy to put people (male and female) into space as they feel more could be discovered from here on Earth. Michael Foale had dual nationality which made it easier for him to gain a place at Space Academy and get into space. Other British astronauts have had to apply for American citizenship to get into space. Major Tim Peake is to be the first Briton to go into space as part of European Space Agency (E.S.A.) astronaut programme. After venturing into space with the Russians, Helen returned back to Britain to a life of anonymity.
Todays female astronauts are valued as much as men although not as numerous as women. Susan Helms jointly holds the record for the longest spacewalk, while Peggy Whitson (first female Space Station commander) has spent more than a year of her life off the planet. Whitson and South Korean astronaut Soyeon Yi flew the first spacecraft reentry in which women outnumbered men on a crew. These records aren't mentioned in the media as they don't have the same impact as if they were the first person to do so. If they had beaten the men, they would have become more known.4.
In September 2014, Yelena Serova, the first Russian woman in space for seventeen years blasted off for the international space station. It was the first time a Russian woman had been into space for seventeen years. The married mother of one was asked about being away from her daughter, she replied it was her job. No one ever asked a male astronaut the same question. 5.
Before Yelena, the America catching up on the equality stakes have sent Eileen Collins into space, piloting the Space Shuttle Discovery and later to command the shuttle Columbia on a mission. NASA took the chance to use the Dexys Midnight Runners 'Come on Eileen' to wake the crew up.
No woman has ever landed on the Moon because at the time, women were still second class when it came to space travel back then. If women had the same rights back then as they do now, they would have stepped foot on the Moon during one of the latter missions. A voyage to Mars would take at least a year or as long as three years there and back depending on the speed of the craft. The fast New Horizons space probe took a couple of months to get to Mars however that speed is unlikely to be replicated by a shuttle carrying people to the red planet. A space mission would almostly certainly contain female astronauts because to not would cause more more outrage than if they did go. A mission to Mars would probably contain a married astronaut couple because being away from Earth that long would cause problems otherwise. The main problem with travelling to Mars is not sexual tension but no gravity in the space craft and harmful rays from the Sun. Travelling to the Moon, astronaut crafts are protected by the Earth's magnetic field which doesn't extend out as far as the Moon. Given the time off the planet, there is the very real possibility a baby could be born. Although no one has been born in space yet because there's not the opportunity yet. If problems arose on the I.S.S., ground control could get the person (male or female) off the station whereas they wouldn't during a trip to Mars.
China first female into space by themselves was Liu Yang who went into space nine years after the first Chinese man into space. She was launched symbolically on the same day 49 years on from when Valentina Tereshkova went into space. It is alleged that only married women are allowed into space because they are more physically and psychologically more mature than their singles counterparts. The allegation is strongly denied officially by the Chinese space agency. Before being selected to go into space, Liu Yang was a fighter pilot having logged in excess of 1600 flying hours. 6. She maybe the first but won't be the last into space from China.
Although I've touched on a small area of a large part of women in space, anything I missed, please do make a comment and i'll update the article.