As of December 2019, according to the list of space travelers that met the criterion set by Fédération of Aéronautique Internationale, out of the 565 people who were launched into space, 65 were women. There have been one each from the United Kingdom, Italy, South Korea, Iran and France; two each from Japan, Canada, and China; four from the Soviet Union/Russia; and 50 from the United States.
An interval of 19 years separated the first and second women in space from 1963 - 1984. Since then, women have gone on to set records for spacewalks and long-duration spaceflight on the International Space Station. Today, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is aiming to land the first woman on the moon by 2024 under the Artemis program.
We have listed below 20 of the 65 exceptional women who were well beyond the times they were born into.
1. Valentina Tereshkova (Soviet Union)
On June 16, 1963, aboard the Volstok 6, Valentina Tereshkova launched to outer space, orbited the planet Earth 48 times, and spent almost three days in space. At the time of her flight she was 26 years old, making her the youngest and the first woman to have flown in space with a solo mission.
2. Svetlana Savitskaya (Soviet Union)
She is a retired Soviet aviator and cosmonaut who flew aboard Soyuz T-7 in 1982. Savitskaya is the second woman in space, and the first woman to fly to space twice for her 1984 mission, and remarkably the first woman to perform a spacewalk.
3. Judith Resnik (US)
On August 30, 1984, Resnik became the first Jewish woman who traveled to space, the fourth female astronaut in space, and the second American woman in space that logged a total of 145 hours in orbit.
4. Kathryn D Sullivan
Sullivan is an American geologist and a crew member on three Space Shuttle missions. She is known for being the first American woman to walk in space on October 11, 1984.
5. Sally Ride (US)
Ride joined NASA in 1978, and in her fifth year, she became the first American woman in space in 1983. After the USSR cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova and Svetlana Savitskaya, overall, Ride was the third woman in space. She remains the youngest American astronaut to have traveled outer space at the age of 32.
6. Beth Moses
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo program's Interiors Program Manager and Chief Astronaut Instructor, Moses, is a commercial astronaut. She is the first woman on a commercially launched vehicle for her spaceflight, the VSS Unity VF-01 flight of 22 February 2019.
7. Liu Yang (China)
A Chinese pilot and astronaut who worked as a part of the crew on the outer space mission Shenzhou 9, Liu became the first Chinese woman in space on June 16, 2012.
8. Yelena Serova (Russia)
On 26 September 2014, Serova became the first Russian woman to sojourn at the International Space Station (ISS).
9. Chiaki Mukai (Japan)
Mukai is a physician and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut. She was the first female Japanese in space and was the first Japanese citizen to have completed two spaceflights.
10. Barbara Morgan (US)
Morgan is a former NASA astronaut and an American teacher who participated in the Teacher in Space program. She then trained as a Mission Specialist and flew on STS-118 in August 2007.
11. Samantha Cristoforetti (Italy)
Samantha Cristoforetti is known for brewing an out of this world espresso in outer space. An Italian European Space Agency astronaut and former Italian Air Force pilot and engineer, she holds the record for the longest uninterrupted spaceflight. A total of 199 days and 16 hours until this was broken by Peggy Whitson on June 5, 2017 and later by Christina Koch on December 28, 2019.
12. Ellen Ochoa (US)
Ochoa is the first Hispanic female astronaut to go to space in 1993, aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery where she completed a nine-day mission.
13. Jessica Meir (US/Sweden)
On September 25, 2019, onboard Soyuz MS-15, Meir launched to the ISS. Meir, together with Christina Koch, on October 18, 2019, participated in the first-ever all-female spacewalk.
14. Yi So Yeon (Korea)
So Yeon is the first Korean to fly in space, both an astronaut and a biotechnologist. After her mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Yi continued as a KARI researcher attending the International Space University.
15. Anousheh Ansari (Iran/US)
A few days after her 40th birthday on September 18, 2006, Ansari became the first Iranian to travel to space. Ansari is the first self-funded woman to fly to the International Space Station and the fourth overall self-funded space tourist.
16. Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper (US)
She is the first Ukrainian-American woman who walked in space and the overall eighth female astronaut who walked in space. In August 1996, Stefanyshyn-Piper took up duties in the Johnson Space Center. She was certified for flight assignment as a mission specialist after two years of training and evaluation.
17. Julie Payette (Canada)
Payette has completed two spaceflights via STS-96 and STS-127 and has logged more than 25 days in space. She served as chief astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and capsule communicator at NASA Mission Control Center in Houston.
18. Peggy Whitson (US)
Whitson holds the most number of records among all female astronauts.
She returned to earth on September 3, 2017, and accrued a total of 665 days in space throughout her career. Seventh woman to walk in space, garnering the most Extra Vehicular Activities (EVA) , activities done outside the spacecraft (10 in total) and most time spent on EVA (60 hrs 21 min) overall women space travelers. She's not just the first female ISS commander, but she did so twice. She was the oldest female in space at the age of 57 at the time of spaceflight.
19. Kalpana Chawla (US)
Chawla is the first female astronaut of Indian origin to go to space. In 1997, she first boarded Space Shuttle Columbia as a primary robotic arm operator and mission specialist. As the Space Shuttle Columbia proceeded with the re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft disintegrated, and Chawla was one of the seven crew members who died in the disaster which occurred in 2003.
20. Mae Jemison (US)
Born on October 17, 1956, Jemison is the first African-American woman to have flown into space when she served as a mission specialist embarked in the Space Shuttle Endeavour. An American engineer, physician, and a former NASA astronaut, she entered NASA's astronaut corps in 1987 and was chosen to work for the STS-47 mission, during which she orbited the Earth for approximately eight days on September 12–20, 1992.