Women in Space: Sally Ride

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 shuttle

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

Astronaut Sunita Williams completes Triathalon in space….

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Astronaut Sunita Williams is one amazing woman.

Not only is Sunni a Navy Helicopter test pilot, a record breaking astronaut who ran the Boston marathon in space, but she recently completed her first Triathlon in space. This last mission (Expedition 33) Sunni competed in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. In Space. Seriously.

Here’s the video to prove it!

PS Sunni completed the race in 1:48:33!


The Risk of Human Space Flight to Mars

This past week NASA announced that in 2015 they would be sending two astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) for a year-long mission. This is an expected, and necessary step in the preparation for human spaceflight to Mars. If we are to have human explorers on the surface of Mars, we need to understand the effects on humans of long-term space travel. At the moment trips to the ISS last on average 5-6 months. A mission to Mars may take 6-8 months, plus an extended time on the planet, and a 6-8 month return trip. In reality astronauts could be sent on missions of 2 years or longer.

The ISS as it orbits Earth. Photo credit NASA.

The ISS as it orbits Earth. Photo credit NASA.

Astronauts are exposed to a number of conditions in space that can pose serious health risks, especially if exposure takes place over a long period of time. There are lots of hazards and risks for humans in space, including: ascent and descent accidents; space sickness; debris collisions; micrometeorites; hazardous and toxic gas leaks on the spacecraft; EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) accidents; sudden unexpected illness and the list goes on. Today I’m talking about the specific issues that affect astronauts during long distance flights. (By the way I use the term ‘astronaut’ as a general term, which includes astronauts from various nations, including cosmonauts from Russia, and teikonauts from China.)

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