When Valentina Tereshkova blasted off aboard Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963, she became the first woman to rocket into space. It would be 19 years before another woman got a chance—cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982—followed by American astronaut Sally Ride a year later. By breaking the stratospheric ceiling, these women forged a path for many female astronauts, cosmonauts, and mission specialists to follow.
Women in Space profiles 23 pioneers, including Eileen Collins, the first woman to command the space shuttle; Peggy Whitson, who logged more than a year in orbit aboard the International Space Station; and Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space; as well as astronauts from Japan, Canada, Italy, South Korea, France, and more. Readers will also learn about the Mercury 13, American women selected by NASA in the late 1950s to train for spaceflight. Though they matched and sometimes surpassed their male counterparts in performance, they were ultimately denied the opportunity to head out to the launching pad. Their story, and the stories of the pilots, physicists, and doctors who followed them, demonstrate the vital role women have played in the quest for scientific understanding.
Women in Space is a nonfiction novel about the women who have become astronauts and is geared towards young adults.
I picked this up for two reasons, one I fully believe in another life I would have been an astronaut (if math didn’t make me cry and I didn’t get stick with anxiety & depression) and two because I really want to read more about Kalpana who despite being India’s first female astronaut doesn’t have a lot written about her. Even in this book she doesn’t get a lot of pages. Overall I liked it. It’s simplistic in format and covers a wide range of astronauts, and even if some of the women didn’t get full bios they usually popped up in another person’s bio as well.
There were some small editing issues that were a tad annoying to read in a finished book, and the way it’s written makes the work seem a lot of denser than it actually is. I really hated that a lot of bios were structured as: interesting mid career explanation, jump unannounced back to her past, and then move back through her whole career. It would have worked if the first paragraph had explained her importance to the mission or country, and then moved back to her past…but some of these mid career stories lasted several paragraphs and then without warning I’d be reading about something that happened 15 years in the past. It was very discombobulating. It’s not a book that should have taken me longer than a few days, but I had to keep taking breaks due to the writing style and it lasted me over a week.
I do think it has a lot of value as far as educational purposes go for younger readers and there is a lot of great info in it, and not just on the women themselves but also about the space stations and life up there. There are a lot of teachable moments and plenty of extra sources and reading material that can lead to independent study as well.