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March 18, 1996

Eileen Hawley
Kari Fluegel
Johnson Space Center
(713) 483-5111

Release: 96-009

Lucid to Take Her Place in History Books During Mir Mission

NASA Astronaut Shannon Lucid is stepping into the history books alongside pioneers such as Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, Valentina Tereshkova and Sally Ride as she prepares to become the first American woman to spend an extended time in space.

Lucid is scheduled to begin her five-month mission aboard Russia's Mir Space Station, launching from the Kennedy Space Center on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis. The launch currently is set for March 21 with Atlantis docking to Mir about 43 hours into the flight, fulfilling a lifelong dream for Lucid.

"When I was a little girl I was very interested in being a pioneer like in the American west, and I really liked those stories, but I thought "well, I was born in the wrong time," Lucid said. "I thought I can just be an explorer, but then I thought ‘when I grow up all the Earth is going to be explored." In the fourth and fifth grade, Lucid discovered stories about Robert Goddard, the father of rocketry, and became fascinated with his work. 3I started reading about science fiction and I thought, "that1s what I can do when I grow up--I can grow up and explore space.12 Lucid's mission is a significant milestone in women's history, building on a foundation first started by Russian Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova 33 years ago.

Tereshkova, a textile factory worker and amateur parachutist, became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963, on Vostok 6. During her three-day flight, Tereshkova spent more time in space than all the Mercury astronauts combined. It was 19 years later that the next woman, also Russian, flew in space.

The American space program first opened the ranks of its astronaut corps to women in 1978 when Anna Fisher, Shannon Lucid, Judy Resnik, Sally Ride, Rhea Seddon and Kathy Sullivan were selected for training. Since then 28 women have been completed astronaut candidate training, including five women in the Class of 1995.

Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983 on the seventh mission of the space shuttle program. During the mission, the crew deployed two communications satellites and conducted experiments on human adaptation to the space environment. The mission was also the first to deploy and retrieve the German-designed Shuttle Pallet Satellite.

On October 11, 1984, Sullivan became the first American woman to venture outside a space shuttle. During STS 41-G, Sullivan and crew mate Dave Leestma spent 3 hours and 29 minutes outside the Space Shuttle Challenger conducting a spacewalk that tested fluid transfer hardware for possible space station applications.

Women's history recorded another important first when Eileen Collins became the first woman to serve as a pilot of the space shuttle in 1995. The mission, STS-63, was the first time a space shuttle rendezvoused with the Russian Space Station Mir.

NASA's women astronauts represent all educational and ethnic backgrounds. The current female astronauts are engineers, pilots, medical doctors, physicists and chemists. Mae Jemison became the first African-American woman in space in 1992, and Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman in space in 1994. Women are an integral part of space exploration today with Roberta Bondar of Canada and Chiaki Mukai of Japan flying on the space shuttle as payload specialists.

Currently, there are 23 women astronauts. The five who have just completed astronaut candidate training includes two pilot-astronauts, and three mission specialist-astronauts. They shortly will take their place among the ranks of the pioneers exploring the frontier of space.

More information about women at NASA can be obtained though the Internet at http://jsc.nasa.gov/pao/pao/womens_history.

 

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