Our favourite quotes from women who worked in space – from Katherine Johnson to Mae Jemison

Female NASA astronaut candidates in 1979
Astronaut candidates Rhea Seddon, Kathryn Sullivan, Judth Resnik (1949 - 1986), Sally Ride (1951 - 2012), Anna Lee Fisher, and Shannon Lucid as they pose, gathered around a Personal Rescue Enclosure (PRE) (or rescue ball) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas in1979. (Photo: NASA/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

The year 2019 is a seminal year for the celebration of the history of space travel: it’s the 50-year anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which saw Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin make history as they walked the lunar surface.

Women have played an important part in space travel from its early days. In the 1950s, brilliant mathematician Katherine Johnson worked as an aerospace technologist, calculating space flight trajectories for astronauts.

From the 1960s onwards, women like Valentina Tereshkova, Sally Ride and Mae Jemison broke barriers and made history, paving the path for other females to become astronauts and go into space.

However, we know the path still isn’t straightforward for females wanting to go into space: NASA revealed as much earlier in 2019, when the first all-female spacewalk with Christina Koch and Anne McClain was cancelled – embarrassingly, it was due to a lack of proper-fitting female astronaut attire.

READ MORE: Only 5% of the UK’s pilots are female, but why?

However, if there’s one thing women who work in space, have flown to space and who inspire the rest of us to reach beyond the stars have shown us, it’s that they persisted, breaking barriers and proving nay-sayers wrong, time and time again.

It’s also that they threw themselves into their studies with fervour, working hard to become astronauts: they were physicists and engineers and pilots and doctors – and that was before they even got into orbit.

Here are our favourite inspiring quotes from the women who made history in space travel – the women who we can thank when our daughters become physicists, engineers, pilots and astronauts.

READ MORE: These female astronauts helped change the world

Sally Ride, the first American woman to go into space in 1983

Astronaut Sally K. Ride
Astronaut Sally K. Ride, STS-7 mission specialist, communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck of the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Challenger. (Photo: Getty Images)

“I never went into physics or the astronaut corps to become a role model. But after my first flight, it became clear to me that I was one. And I began to understand the importance of that to people. Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see.” - Harvard Business Review

Valentina Tereshkova, cosmonaut and the first woman to have flown in space on a solo mission in 1963

Valentina Tereshkova
Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman sent into space. (Photo: Getty Images)

“Again the pressure pushes me in the chair, shuts my eyes. I notice the dark red tongues of the flame outside the windows. I'm trying to memorise, fix all the feelings, the peculiarities of this descending, to tell those, who will be conquering space after me."

Katherine Johnson, NASA “computer,” a mathematician whose calculations helped send astronauts to the moon

NASA space scientist and mathematician Katherine Johnson
NASA space scientist and mathematician Katherine Johnson poses for a portrait at work at NASA Langley Research Center in 1966 in Hampton, Virginia. (Photo: NASA/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images)

“Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing. Sometimes they have more imagination than men.”

Mae Jemison, the first black woman to travel in space aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992

Astronaut Mae Jemison
Astronaut Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space as STS-47 Endeavour mission specialist. (Photo: Time Life Pictures/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

“Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.”

Ellen Ochoa, first Hispanic woman in space (1993) who was director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center

Astronaut Ellen Ochoa and her son
STS-96 Mission Specialist Ellen Ochoa holds her son, Wilson Miles-Ochoa as she steps off the bus at the Cape Canaveral Air Station Skid Strip June 7, 1999. (Photo: NASA, Getty Images)

“Education is what allows you to stand out.”

Anne McClain, flight engineer for the 58th expedition to the International Space Station which ended March 2019; meant to be part of the first all-female spacewalk

NASA astronaut Anne McClain
NASA astronaut Anne McClain in a spacesuit as she attends a qualification training session. (Photo: Mikhail Japaridze\TASS via Getty Images)

“If you don’t face your fears, the only thing you’ll ever see is what’s in your comfort zone.”

Sunita Williams, NASA astronaut who held records for total spacewalks by a woman (seven) and most spacewalk time for a woman (50 hours, 40 minutes)

Shivprasad Khened, Director of the Nehru Science Centre and astronaut Captain Sunita Williams
Shivprasad Khened, Director of the Nehru Science Centre in Mumbai presents a plaque to astronaut Captain Sunita Williams during her visit to the centre to meet with students in 2013. (Photo: Prodip Guha/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

“Understanding how things work and being an engineer led me to become a helicopter pilot and eventually to NASA. The path doesn’t necessarily have to be straight, but don’t limit yourself to what you know. Go out and try new things.”

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