This article is the third in a series of articles in which I will profile every woman astronaut, cosmonaut and taikonaut who has been into space. Last time we looked at the career of Svetlana Savitskaya the second woman in space. Today I’m profiling astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. (The feature image above is a collection of drawings of women astronauts by artist Phillip J Bond. You can find Phillip’s wonderful series on women astronauts here.)
In 2004 I saw Sally Ride at an Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) Radio National Science Special in Canberra. When I first saw her speak, I was surprised how small she appeared on stage. In my mind, Sally Ride was larger than life, an adventurer, explorer, a trailblazer who broke boundaries in physics, astrophysics and space exploration. Of course within a few minutes of her speaking I was completely drawn into her world of science and space exploration where her stature, and gender is irrelevant. (The transcript of the show she shared with astrophysicist Paul Davies, and marine biologist Syliva Earle can be read here).
Sally Ride aboard the Shuttle (Image credit NASA).
Sally Ride was born in Encino, California. She had one sibling, a sister, her mother was a volunteer counselor at a women’s prison, her father was a political science professor. Sally went to Swarthmore College, taking physics courses at UCLA, she then went on to Stanford to earn her Bachelors degree in English and Physics, and her Masters degree and PhD in physics. Sally was an accomplished athlete, and nationally ranked tennis player in her youth. Continue reading
When Russian geographer and Antarctic explorer Andrey Kapitsa travelled to Vostok Station in 1959 he was looking for evidence of a subglacial lake that was first proposed by Russian scientist Peter Kropotkin at the end of the 19th century. Whilst Kropotkin was not able to specify the location of subglacial lakes, he theorised that masses of fresh water could be trapped far below the Antarctic ice sheets. He believed that the massive pressure of thousands of meters of solid ice would mean that temperatures at the bottom of the ice sheet would be high enough to create isolated water lakes. Continue reading
This article is the second in a series of articles in which I will profile every woman astronaut, cosmonaut and taikonaut who has been into space. Last time we looked at the career of Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. Today I’m profiling cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya, the second woman in space. (The feature image above is a collection of drawings of women astronauts by artist Phillip J Bond. You can find Phillip’s wonderful series on women astronauts here.)
Svetlana Savitskaya is a record breaking Russian aviator and cosmonaut.
Born in Moscow in 1948, Svetlana was raised in a middle class family. In high school she was a keen parachutist, and in 1970 she won 6th place in FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) World Aerobic Championship, went on to set 18 international world records in MiG aircraft, and set 3 international records in team parachute jumping. In 1974, Svetlana began a career as a pilot after urging from her father, a Deputy Commander of the Soviet Air Defences and World War II air hero. Her father had recognised her interest in flying and parachuting and was very keen for Svetlana to pursue pilot school. Just two years after finishing pilot school Svetlana went on to become a test pilot. Continue reading
This article is the first in a series of articles in which I will profile every woman astronaut, cosmonaut and taikonaut who has been into space. The last time I checked 58 women have travelled into space, by the end of this year there may be a few more! We’re going to start this series at the beginning – with Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. (The feature image above is a collection of drawings of women astronauts by artist Phillip J Bond. You can find Phillip’s wonderful series on women astronauts here.)
Born in 1937, Tereshkova was a textile worker from Maslennikovo, a small village in the far west of Russia. Tereshkova never yearned to go into space, she left school early to support her family, but continued her education by correspondence. Tereshkova worked in the local textile mill, and earned certification as a cotton spinning technology expert. She went on to become the secretary of the local Komsomol (Young Communist League). Tereshkova’s passion was parachuting. She was introduced to the sport of parachuting by a friend and was so taken by the sport she soon began parachuting regularly and set up the Textile Mill Workers Parachute Club.
In 1962 when the Soviet Air Force advertised for 50 cosmonauts to join the new space program, it included 5 positions for women. At the time Nikita Khrushchev thought that the U.S. was considering sending women from the Mercury Program into space. This spurred the Russians on to select a number of women for their own space program, with the aim of getting them into space before the US. Continue reading
It seems like another day goes by and there’s another discovery of more exoplanets! On January 7, just one week into 2013, astronomers from the Kepler Mission Space Observatory announced the discovery of the latest exoplanet, the creatively named KOI-172.02. At this stage it appears that KOI-172.02 is an Earth-like planet candidate orbiting a star similar to our own sun. It almost seems like old news when scientists announce the discovery of a planet orbiting another star in our galaxy!
As at January 15, 2013 a total of 859 such planets have been identified (details can be found here). These are certainly exciting times for astronomers, but just how do astronomers search for exoplanets? Continue reading