Posted on October 28 2017
NASA Scientist Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian-American in space. Chawla Hill on Mars was named after her.
In 1982, Kalpana Chawla obtained a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas before moving on to obtain a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado.
In 1997, she became the first Indian-born woman and the second Indian person to fly in space. On the Space Shuttle Columbia, she took on the role as mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. In her second space travel, she lost her life on the Columbia.
Chiaki Mukai is the first Japanese female astronaut. She’s also part of a subcommittee of the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). Not only was she an astronaut, she was also certified in cardiovascular surgery.
In 1994, she joined the crew of the Columbia as a payload specialist, becoming the first Japanese woman to fly into space. She was also the first Japanese citizen to make a second trip to space.
“People often ask me: “Did you think that, as a woman, you had any realistic chance of being selected?” I guess, the fact that I was a woman never even occurred to me as a possible limitation or advantage. No matter what the gender, color, religion... I saw myself only as one human candidate among hundreds of applicants.”
Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman to set foot in space, and is currently an advocate of arts and sciences. As a child, she worried that aliens would get the wrong idea about humanity from looking at the all-white, all-male crews of the earliest space missions. Fun fact: she initially planned on being a scientist on Mars instead of an astronaut.
“Being first gives you a responsibility—you have a public platform, and you must choose how to use it. I use mine to help folks become more comfortable with the idea that science is integral to our world. And I vowed that I would talk about my work and ask other women about theirs—the nitty-gritty details. People say you can have everything. No, you can’t. But you can have a lot more—and do a lot more—than you think.”
Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a theoretical astrophysicist. She was also named the ‘63rd Black woman in American history with a Physics Ph.D’. Much of her work and activism revolve around social justice, science. Her first exposure to science was Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time — the film, followed by the book.
“I’m going to be whatever that guy is. I looked up Stephen Hawking and sent an email to his address. Presumably one of his graduate students responded to me and explained to me how you become a theoretical physicist. So I began planning. I’m going to go to Harvard for college. I’m going to go to Cal Tech—those were my top two choices—and I’m going to get a Ph.D., and I’m going to become a theoretical physicist. And that’s basically how it played out."
Also, did you know that you can now place your name on Mars? Courtesy of NASA.
Finally, here's our reading list inspired by our love for space, physics and the universe:
- Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 — Jeffrey Kluger and Jim Lovell
- Astrophysics for People in a Hurry — Neil deGrasse Tyson
- Lab Girl — Hope Jahren
- Stranger in a Strange Land — Robert A. Heinlein
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks — Rebecca Skloot