This Sunday, June 16, marks the 50th anniversary of cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova's 1963 trip to low Earth Orbit – a flight she made just two years after Yuri Gagarin became the first human in history to visit space.
Above: Four women serving together on the International Space Station on April 14, 2010 – the most to ever visit space simultaneously. Clockwise from lower right are NASA astronauts Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, both STS-131 mission specialists; and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Expedition 23 flight engineer; along with JAXA astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, STS-131 mission specialist. Via NASA
Today, 57 of the 534 people that have flown to space are women, according to space history and artifacts expert Robert Pearlman, editor of collectSPACE.com.
"There have been so many boundaries broken," said Cathy Lewis, curator of the international space programs collection at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. "We've had a woman commander, woman pilot. We've had an all-woman crew that just occurred out of coincidence because it just so happened that they were assembled for their skills. I think the United States is leading the way."
It took 20 years after Tereshkova's launch for Sally Ride to become the first American woman in space, but since that time, more than 40 women have flown to orbit as NASA astronauts.
Some of our favorite astronauts ever have been women. Sally Ride. Mae Jemison. Suni Williams, and we could stand to see a log more. Here's to improving that 57/534 ratio of female-to-male space explorers – here's to the future of women in space!