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    • By NASA
      “A bird cannot fly with one wing only. Human space flight cannot develop any further without the active participation of women.” – Valentina Tereshkova
      “If we want scientists and engineers in the future, we should be cultivating the girls as much as the boys.” – Sally Ride
      “International cooperation is very necessary. Chinese have a saying, ‘When all the people collect the wood, you will make a great fire.’” – Liu Yang
      As of Feb. 29, 2024, 75 women have flown in space. Of these, 47 have worked on the International Space Station as long-duration expedition crewmembers, as visitors on space shuttle assembly flights, as space flight participants, or as commercial astronauts. This article recognizes the significant accomplishments of these women from many nations as well as the pioneering women who preceded them into space. Many other women contributed to the assembly of the station and the research conducted aboard on a daily basis, including those on the ground who served as center directors, managers, flight directors, and in many other roles to pursue the exploration of space. Their achievements will contribute to NASA’s efforts to land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon and possibly send the first crews to Mars in the coming decades.

      Left: The five women selected for training to be the first woman in space, Soviet cosmonaut-candidates Valentina L. Ponomareva, left, Tatiana D. Kuznetsova, Irina B. Soloveva, Valentina V. Tereshkova, and Zhanna D. Yorkina, with an unidentified woman at far right. Right: Tereshkova just before boarding her Vostok 6 capsule for her historic spaceflight. 
      The era of women in space began on June 16, 1963, when Soviet cosmonaut Valentina V. Tereshkova launched aboard the Vostok 6 spacecraft. Chosen from a group of five women selected for training, Tereshkova completed a three-day mission and entered the history books as the first woman to orbit the Earth. Nearly 20 years passed before another woman flew in space. In January 1978, NASA announced the selection of 35 new astronauts including six women for the space shuttle program. In response, the Soviet Union secretly selected a group of nine women cosmonauts in 1980. On Aug. 19, 1982, one of these women, Svetlana Y. Savitskaya, launched with her two crewmates aboard Soyuz T-7 for a week-long mission. The next day, they joined the two long-duration resident crewmembers aboard Salyut 7, marking the first time a space station hosted a mixed-gender crew. Ten months later, on June 18, 1983, astronaut Sally K. Ride made history as the first American woman in space, spending seven days aboard space shuttle Challenger during the STS-7 mission.

      Left: The six women astronauts selected by NASA in 1978, Shannon M. Lucid, left, M. Rhea Seddon, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Judith A. Resnik, Anna L. Fisher, and Sally K. Ride, pose with an Apollo-era space suit. Right: Ride aboard space shuttle Challenger during the STS-7 mission.
      Savitskaya made history again on July 25, 1984, as the first woman to participate in a spacewalk during her second flight to Salyut 7. Less than three months later, on Oct. 11, Kathryn D. Sullivan completed the first spacewalk by an American woman from space shuttle Challenger during the STS-41G mission. With Ride as one of Sullivan’s crewmates, the flight marked the first time a space crew included two women.

      Left: Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Y. Savitskaya during her historic spacewalk outside the Salyut 7 space station. Right: NASA astronauts Kathryn D. Sullivan, left, and Sally K. Ride aboard space shuttle Challenger during the STS-41G mission.
      Helen P. Sharman has the distinction as not only the first person from the United Kingdom in space but also the first woman to visit the Russian space station Mir. During her eight-day privately funded Juno mission in May 1991, Sharman conducted a series of life sciences experiments and talked to British schoolchildren. The next month marked the first time that a space crew included three women – NASA astronauts M. Rhea Seddon, Tamara E. Jernigan, and Millie E. Hughes-Fulford – during the STS-40 Spacelab Life Sciences 1 mission.

      Left: Helen P. Sharman, the United Kingdom’s first astronaut, aboard the space station Mir in 1991. Right: The first time a space crew included three women – NASA astronauts Tamara E. Jernigan, back row middle, M. Rhea Seddon, and Millie R. Hughes-Fulford – the STS-40 mission in 1991.
      Selected in 1983 as one of the six members of the initial cadre of the Canadian Astronaut Program – later incorporated into the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) – Dr. Roberta L. Bondar became the first Canadian woman in space during the STS-42 flight of Discovery in January 1992. As a payload specialist and the first neurologist in space, she performed and participated in more than 40 experiments during the eight-day International Microgravity Laboratory-1 (IML-1) mission. NASA selected Dr. Mae C. Jemison as an astronaut in 1987. In September 1992, she became the first African American woman in space as a crew member of Endeavour’s STS-47 Spacelab-J mission. During the eight-day flight, she conducted numerous life and materials sciences experiments. Selected in NASA’s 1990 class of astronauts, Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in space in April 1993 as a mission specialist on the STS-56 flight of Discovery, the second Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science mission. An accomplished flautist, she played the flute during her spare time during the mission. Ochoa completed three more space shuttle flights and served as the first Hispanic director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston from 2013 to 2018. Selected in 1985 as an astronaut by the National Space Development Agency of Japan, now the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Dr. Chiaki Mukai became the first Japanese woman in space in July 1994 when she spent 15 days as a payload specialist on the STS-65 IML-2 mission aboard Columbia. She became the first Japanese astronaut to make two spaceflights when she returned to space in 1998 aboard STS-95.

      Left: Dr. Roberta L. Bondar, the first Canadian woman in space, participates in a neuro-vestibular experiment during the STS-42 International Microgravity Laboratory-1 (IML-1) mission. Middle left: Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the first African American woman in space, works in the Spacelab module during the STS-47 Spacelab-J mission. Middle right: Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space, enjoys playing the flute in her spare time during the STS-56 mission. Right: Dr. Chiaki Mukai, the first Japanese woman in space, floats into the Spacelab module during the STS-65 IML-2 mission.
      The honor of the first woman to complete a long-duration mission belongs to Russian cosmonaut Elena V. Kondakova. She launched aboard Soyuz TM20 on Oct. 3, 1994, and spent 169 days aboard the space station Mir as a member of Expedition 17, returning to Earth on March 22, 1995. The first American woman to complete a long-duration mission, NASA astronaut Shannon W. Lucid, launched aboard space shuttle Atlantis on March 22, 1996, as part of the STS-76 crew. The second NASA astronaut to fly as part of the Shuttle-Mir Program, Lucid spent 188 days aboard Mir, setting a new record for the longest single flight by a woman, as a member of Expeditions 21 and 22, returning to Earth with STS-79 on Sep. 26.

      Left: Russian cosmonaut Elena V. Kondakova, second from right, aboard Mir during the handover between Expedition 16 and 17 in 1994. Right: NASA astronaut Shannon W. Lucid, left, with her Mir Expedition 21 crewmates in 1996.
      With Lucid still onboard Mir, the August 1996 flight of Claudie André-Deshays, France’s first woman astronaut visiting the station during her Cassiopée research mission, marked the first time that two women lived aboard any space station. After marrying fellow French astronaut and Mir veteran Jean-Pierre Haigneré, she returned to space in October 2001, this time during her eight-day Andromède research mission to the International Space Station, becoming the first woman to live and work aboard two different space stations.

      Left: Claudie André-Deshays, left, France’s first female astronaut, with Russian cosmonaut Yuri V. Usachev and NASA astronaut Shannon M. Lucid aboard Mir in 1996. Right: Claudie (André-Deshays) Haigneré in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station in 2001.
      When on-orbit assembly of the International Space Station commenced in 1998, female astronauts took part from the very beginning. As the first woman to reach the new facility, NASA astronaut Nancy J. Currie participated in the first assembly mission, STS-88 in December 1998. She used the shuttle’s robotic arm to precisely join the American Unity Node 1 module to the Russian-built Zarya module, launched three weeks earlier.

      Left: NASA astronaut Nancy J. Currie, front row right, the first woman to reach the International Space Station, with her STS-88 crewmates in 1998. Right: Currie at work in the Zarya module.
      The second space station assembly mission, STS-96 in May 1999, included three women on the crew – NASA astronauts Jernigan and Ellen Ochoa, and CSA’s Julie Payette. Jernigan became the first woman to participate in a spacewalk at the space station to install crane equipment for future assembly tasks, with Ochoa as the robotic arm operator. Payette became the first Canadian of any gender to visit the space station and became the first Canadian to return to the space station during STS-127 in 2009.

      Left: In 1999, the STS-96 crew in the Unity Node 1 module, with NASA astronaut Tamara E. Jernigan and Julie Payette of the Canadian Space Agency in the top row and NASA astronaut Ellen Ochoa at bottom right. Middle: Jernigan during the STS-96 spacewalk. Right: Payette in the Unity Node 1 module.
      NASA astronaut Pamela A. Melroy served as the first female pilot on a shuttle flight to the space station, the STS-92 mission in October 2000 that added the Z1 truss, control moment gyros, and a Pressurized Mating Adapter to the growing station. She returned to the station as pilot of STS-112 in October 2002 and as commander of STS-120 in October 2007. NASA astronaut Susan J. Helms holds several distinctions for women. As a member of Expedition 2, she became the first woman to complete a long-duration mission on the space station, a 167-day flight between March and August of 2001. She had previously flown to the station during STS-101, making her the first woman to visit the facility twice. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy’s first woman-inclusive class of 1980, Helms was the first woman with a military background to visit the station. She co-holds the record for the longest spacewalk to date, 8 hours 56 minutes, completed with her Expedition 2 crewmate NASA astronaut James S. Voss. 

      Left: STS-92 Pilot NASA astronaut Pamela A. Melroy shortly after reaching orbit in 2000. Right: Expedition 2 Commander Yuri V. Usachev of Roscosmos, left, coaxing a reluctant Flight Engineer NASA astronaut Susan J. Helms to leave the International Space Station at the end of their mission in 2001.
      NASA astronaut Eileen M. Collins had already made history three times before, first in 1995 as the first female pilot of a space shuttle mission (STS-63), the second time in 1997 when she served as the first female shuttle pilot to dock with a space station (STS-84 and Mir), and again in 1999 as the first woman shuttle commander (STS-93). In 2005, Collins became the first woman to command a shuttle mission to the space station, the Return to Flight STS-114 mission, the first after the Columbia accident two years previously. NASA astronaut Heidemarie M. “Heidi” Stefanyshyn-Piper conducted the first spacewalk by a woman from the station’s Quest Joint Airlock on Sep. 12, 2006, during the STS-115 mission that installed the P3/P4 truss segment on the station. 

      Left: In 2005, STS-114 Commander NASA astronaut Eileen M. Collins, left, with Pilot NASA astronaut James M. “Vegas” Kelly on the flight deck of Discovery. Right: NASA astronaut Heidemarie M. “Heidi” Stefanyshyn-Piper working on the P3/P4 truss segment during an STS-115 spacewalk in 2006.
      On Sept. 18, 2006, Anousheh Ansari became the first Iranian-born American in space when she launched with her Expedition 14 crew mates aboard Soyuz TMA9. Flying as a spaceflight participant through a commercial agreement with the Russian government, Ansari conducted four experiments on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) during her nine-day mission. She returned to Earth with the Expedition 13 crew. Eighteen months later, through a joint agreement between the governments of Russia and the Republic of Korea, Yi So-yeon, a researcher at the Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), became the first Korean in space when she launched aboard Soyuz TMA12 with her Expedition 15 crew mates on April 8, 2008. During her 10-day mission aboard the space station, Yi carried out 18 experiments for KARI. She returned to Earth with Expedition 16 crew members NASA astronaut Peggy A. Whitson and Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri I. Malenchenko, enduring a strenuous ballistic reentry caused by a spacecraft malfunction. The event marked the first time that women outnumbered men during a spaceflight landing.

      Left: Spaceflight participant Anousheh Ansari, center, with her Expedition 13 and 14 crew mates during a press conference. Middle left: Ansari holds a plant grown in the Lada greenhouse in the Zvezda Service Module. Middle right: Korean spaceflight participant Yi So-yeon with her Expedition 16 crew mates. Right: Yi conducts an experiment in the Pirs Docking Compartment.
      Whitson holds the distinction as the first female commander of the space station during Expedition 16 in 2007, her second long-duration mission to the orbiting lab. The busy expedition included the addition to the station of the Harmony Node 2 module, ESA’s Columbus research module, the first of the JAXA elements, and the arrival of the first of ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle cargo resupply vehicles. As noted above, Melroy commanded STS-120, the October 2007 mission that brought Columbus to the station, marking the first and only time that women commanded both the space station and the visiting space shuttle. In 2017, during Expedition 51 Whitson became the first woman to command the station for a second time. During this third flight, she spent 289 days in space, at the time the longest single flight by a woman. As of March 2024, Whitson holds the record for the most cumulative spaceflight time for a woman as well as for any American astronaut – o er the course of three long-duration missions aboard the space station, she spent a total of 675 days or about 1.8 years in space. She also holds the record for the most spacewalk time for a woman – during 10 spacewalks, she spent 60 hours, 21 minutes outside the station.

      Left: During the change of command ceremony, Expedition 16 Commander NASA astronaut Peggy A. Whitson, top right, hangs the crew’s patch in the Destiny module. Right: STS-120 Commander NASA astronaut Pamela A. Melroy, left, and Expedition 16 Commander Whitson meet at the hatch between the two vehicles.
      The first time four women flew aboard the space station at one time occurred between May 16 and 23, 2010. Expedition 23 Flight Engineer NASA astronaut Tracy C. Dyson had been living and working aboard since April when STS-131 arrived, with NASA astronauts Dorothy M. “Dottie” Metcalf-Lindenburger and Stephanie D. Wilson, and Naoko Yamazaki of JAXA as members of the shuttle crew – Yamazaki became the first Japanese woman to visit the space station. The mission brought four new research facilities to the station. Three weeks after the shuttle’s departure, Dyson and her crewmates welcomed a new trio of long-duration crew members including NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, making Expedition 24 the first to include two women. The next two-woman expedition took place between November 2014 and March 2015 – Expedition 42 included Roscosmos cosmonaut Elena O. Serova, the first Russian woman to make a long-duration flight aboard the space station, and Samantha Cristoforetti from Italy, the first female ESA astronaut on a long-duration mission, spending 199 days in space, a then-record as the longest by an international partner astronaut. 

      Left: Four women aboard the International Space Station – NASA astronauts Dorothy M. Metcalf-Lindenburger, top left, Tracy C. Dyson, and Stephanie D. Wilson, and Naoko Yamazaki of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Middle: Caldwell Dyson, middle, and NASA astronaut Shannon Walker with their Expedition 24 crewmate NASA astronaut Douglas H. “Wheels” Wheelock, left. Right: Elena O. Serova, left, of Roscomos and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in the Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 Georges Lemaître cargo vehicle during Expedition 42.
      Expedition crews including two women have recently become more common. During Expedition 57, NASA astronauts Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor and Anne C. McClain overlapped by about three weeks in December 2018. Between March and June 2019, McClain and NASA astronaut Christina H. Koch were aboard as part of Expedition 59, and NASA astronaut Jessica U. Meir joined Koch in September of that year during Expedition 61. Koch returned to Earth in February 2020, completing a flight of 329 days, the longest single mission to date by a woman.

      Left: NASA astronauts Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, left, and Anne C. McClain work together in the Kibo module during Expedition 57. Right: McClain, left, and NASA astronaut Christina H. Koch demonstrate weightlessness during Expedition 59.
      The Expedition 61 crew conducted a record nine spacewalks between October 2019 and January 2020. Koch and Meir made history on Oct. 18 when they floated outside the space station to carry out the first all-woman spacewalk, one of several to replace the station’s batteries. The capsule communicator (capcom), the person in the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston who communicates with the astronauts in space, for this historic spacewalk was three-time space shuttle veteran Wilson (who as noted above took part in the first four-woman gathering on the space station). “As much as it’s worth celebrating the first spacewalk with an all-female team, I think many of us are looking forward to it just being normal,” astronaut Dyson said during live coverage of the spacewalk. As if to prove her point, Koch and Meir conducted two more all-woman spacewalks in January 2020. Meir’s return to Earth marked the end of the longest period up to that time of a continuous female presence aboard the space station – 682 days (one year and 10 months) from June 8, 2018, to April 17, 2020.

      Left: Space suited NASA astronauts Jessica U. Meir, left, and Christina H. Koch, assisted by their Expedition 61 crewmates, prepare for the first all-woman spacewalk. Right: Capsule communicators NASA astronauts Stephanie D. Wilson, left, and Mark T. Vande Hei assist Meir and Koch during the first all-woman spacewalk from the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
      The arrival of NASA astronaut Kathleen H. “Kate” Rubins on Oct 14, 2020, began the longest continuous period to date with at least one woman living and working aboard the space station. On Nov. 16, as a member of NASA’s Crew-1 mission aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft, NASA astronaut Walker became the first woman to travel on a commercial crew vehicle. When she and her three crewmates joined the Expedition 64 crew abord the space station, they comprised the station’s first-ever seven-member resident crew. With Rubins already onboard, for the next five months two women once again called the space station home. NASA astronaut K. Megan McArthur, the first woman to pilot a commercial crew vehicle, arrived in April 2021 as a member of NASA’s Crew-2 mission, followed by Crew-3’s NASA astronaut Kayla S. Barron in November 2021.

      Left: NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, the first woman to fly on a commercial crew vehicle, looks out the window of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft Resilience. Middle: NASA astronauts Kathleen H. “Kate” Rubins, left, and Walker working inside the International Space Station. Right: The space station’s first seven-member crew including Walker, left, and Rubins, third from left, pose in the Kibo module.

      Left: NASA astronaut K. Megan McArthur wearing her SpaceX launch and entry suit in the Destiny U.S. Laboratory module in preparation for return to Earth in October 2021. Right: NASA astronaut Kayla S. Barron inspects chili peppers grown aboard the space station prior to harvest in November 2021.
      In April 2022, when Crew Dragon Freedom lifted off, Crew-4 included first-time space flyer NASA astronaut Jessica A. Watkins and ESA’s Cristoforetti on her second long-duration flight, marking the first time two women flew aboard a commercial crew vehicle to the space station. Once they joined Expedition 67, Watkins became the first African American woman to join a long-duration crew. With Barron already aboard the station, this marked the first time three women on long-duration spaceflights lived and worked aboard the orbiting laboratory.

      Left: Crew-4 astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency, left, and NASA astronaut Jessica A. Watkins aboard Crew Dragon Freedom. Right: Cristoforetti, left, and Watkins, right, bid farewell to NASA astronaut Kayla S. Barron wearing her SpaceX launch and entry suit as she prepares for her return to Earth with her fellow Crew-3 team mates.
      In September 2022, Cristoforetti assumed command of the space station, a first for a European woman. When Crew-5 launched aboard Crew Dragon Endurance in October 2022, NASA astronaut Nicole A. Mann became the first Native American woman in space and the first woman to command a Crew Dragon mission, and Anna Y. Kikina of Roscosmos became the first Russian cosmonaut to fly aboard a U.S. commercial vehicle. For the second time, two women commanders, Cristoforetti and Mann, greeted each other as Crew-5 arrived to join Expedition 68. The launch of Crew-5 also marked the first time that five women lived and worked in space at the same time – the four women aboard the space station and Liu Yang aboard China’s Tiangong space station on her second space mission. The launch of Crew-6 in February 2023 marked the first all-male long-duration crew aboard a commercial crew vehicle. The return of Mann and Kikina marked the end of the longest time period with at least one woman living and working in space, 879 days, or 2 years and 5 months.

      Left: Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency assumes command of the International Space Station. Right: Space station Commander Cristoforetti greets Crew-5 Commander NASA astronaut Nicole A. Mann and her crew mates.
      The hiatus in women in space lasted less than six months, during which two women on the Ax-2 mission spent eight days aboard the space station (see below). Renewing a female presence in space, NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli arrived aboard the station in August 2023 as part of Crew-7. NASA astronaut Loral A. O’Hara joined her three weeks later when she arrived as part of the Soyuz MS-24 crew and they together conducted research as part of Expedition 70 as the only two Americans in space. On Nov. 21, 2023, they conducted an all-woman spacewalk, only the second pair of women to do so.

      Left: NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli, front row center, and Loral A. O’Hara, front row right, and their Expedition 70 crew mates chat with space station program managers to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the orbiting laboratory. Right: O’Hara, left, and Moghbeli, right, prepare for their spacewalk as Roscosmos cosmonaut Nikolai A. Chub assists.
      The presence of women in space will continue uninterrupted when NASA astronaut Jeannette J. Epps and her fellow Crew 8 crew mates launch to the space station on March 1 for an expected six-month mission. The March 21 launch of Soyuz MS-25 will mark a milestone in spaceflight history as the first time women will form the majority of a crew at launch. Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg V. Novitskiy will command the flight, accompanied by NASA astronaut Dyson and the first citizen from Belarus to fly in space, Marina V. Vasilevskaya. Dyson, on her second long-duration flight, will remain aboard the station as part of Expedition 71 while Novitskiy and Vasilevskaya return to Earth after 12 days, accompanied by O’Hara who will have spent more than six months aboard the orbiting laboratory.

      Left: NASA astronaut Jeanette J. Epps, left, and her Crew 7 crew mates during training. Middle: NASA astronaut Tracy C. Dyson with her Soyuz MS-25 crewmates. Right: Epps, left, and Dyson during preflight training for Expedition 71.
      The story of women in space would not be complete without mention of the two women from the People’s Republic of China who have flown in space. China’s first female astronaut, Liu Yang, launched on June 16, 2012, aboard the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft with her two crewmates, docking with the Tiangong-1 experimental space station two days later. The trio returned to Earth after a 13-day mission. One year later, on June 11, 2013, Wang Yaping and her two crewmates launched aboard Shenzhou-10 for a 14-day visit to Tiangong-1. She conducted science experiments and taught a live physics lessons to school children from aboard the station. Wang returned to space on Oct. 15, 2021, aboard Shenzhou-13 as the first woman to live and work aboard the Tiangong China Space Station. She also conducted the first spacewalk by a Chinese woman. Liu completed her second flight, a six-month mission aboard Tiangong as a member of the Shenzhou-14 crew.

      Left: Liu Yang, the People’s Republic of China’s first woman in space, aboard the Tiangong-1 space station. Middle: Wang Yaping teaching a physics lesson live from Tiangong-1. Right: Wang during the first spacewalk by a Chinese woman astronaut. Image credits: courtesy of CNSA.
      Women have been at the forefront of commercial spaceflights. In September 2021, two of the four crew members of the private space mission Inspiration4 were women – Sian H. Proctor, the first African American woman to pilot a spacecraft, and Hayley Arceneaux. They conducted science experiments during their three-day mission aboard the Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft. The next month, Russian actress Yulia S. Peresild and her director spent 11 days aboard the space station filming scenes for a film entitled “The Challenge” that premiered in April 2023. The second Private Astronaut Mission to the space station, the May 2023 Ax-2 flight included a crew of four spending nine days aboard the orbiting laboratory conducting experiments. Making her fourth visit to the space station, former NASA astronaut Whitson and director of human spaceflight at Axiom Space commanded the Ax-2 flight, becoming the first woman commander of a private space mission. Two mission specialists from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s inaugural astronaut program, including Rayyanah Barnawi, the first Saudi woman in space, served on the crew. Private astronaut missions to the space station represent precursors to privately funded commercial space stations as part of NASA’s efforts to develop a thriving low-Earth orbit ecosystem and marketplace.

      Left: Sian H. Proctor, left, and Hayley Arceneaux during the Inspiration4 private space mission. Image credit: courtesy Inspiration4. Middle: Russian actress Yulia S. Peresild arrives at the space station. Right: The Ax-2 mission crew includes Mission Specialist Rayyanah Barnawi from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, left, and Commander Peggy A. Whitson of Axiom Space, right.
      The story continues…
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      Clayton P. Turner serves as the Director of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. His career at NASA Langley has spanned 33 years. Clayton P. Turner serves as the Director of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. His career at NASA Langley has spanned 33 years. His experiences prior to his career with NASA include three years of military service. He graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y. with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. 
        Who or what inspired you to choose your career and why?   
      A snowstorm in western New York inspired me to go back to college. An interest in engineering inspired me to pursue an engineering degree. The work of others behind the scenes brought me to NASA.  
      When I graduated from high school, I went to college to study what all my friends were studying. I didn’t have the proper motivation, so that didn’t go well. I went into the service and was in the military for three years. I worked as a recording engineer for about ten years. I worked repairing pinball machines and video games. It was in the last career piece where I was in a blizzard, outside on the back of a pickup truck when I decided to go back to college, significantly more motivated! 
      I think my story highlights the story of many people: there’s not a storybook path to get to NASA. Everybody’s path will be their own path.
       What do you find most rewarding about working with NASA?   
      I find it rewarding that we get to reach for new heights to reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind. We get to change the lives of people in a positive way. We get to impact the country. I have a saying on my board that reads, “We have the privilege to serve our country and the power to unite it.” That’s what’s exciting about being at NASA for me. 
       What do you enjoy doing outside of work?   
       I enjoy traveling. The thing I’ve enjoyed the most over the last two years was going to visit my grandson, who is my first grandchild.   
      What advice would you give to someone who might be interested in pursuing a career at NASA?   
      Once you find your passion and the thing that excites you, you need to come and talk with us at NASA! Yes, we need scientists and engineers, but we need accountants, lawyers, and communications specialists. We have a great need right now for technicians. There is a wide range of fields where you can come and do exactly what I described: reach for new heights to reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.   
      How does your background and heritage contribute to your perspective and approach in your role at NASA?   
      I think what was poured into me as I was growing up and was in the people who surrounded me was a desire and energy to serve and the insistence on making life better for others. That has been a big influence in me. I tend to be a bit of an introvert but because of my culture and because of my background I recognize it’s not actually about me, it’s about what you’re going to do for someone else.
      The 2024 theme for Black History Month is “African Americans and the Arts,” spanning the many impacts that Black Americans have had on visual arts, music, cultural movements and more. How have the arts played a role in your life?    
      The arts have pulled me out of my shell a bit and allowed me to try new things, experience new things, and listen to new things. If you listen to my playlist on my phone, you’d be surprised at what’s on there, but there are songs that come from a wide range of cultures that just light up my heart and make me think deeply. Being exposed to those things has made a big difference in my life. 
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      Matthew Hayes is a DEIA Project Analyst with NASA’s Langley Research Center. As DEIA project analyst, Hayes supports the center in identifying gaps and building a culture, environment, systems, and processes where everyone has fair opportunities to grow.NASA/David C. Bowman Matthew Hayes is a DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility) project analyst with NASA’s Langley Research Center. His Langley career has spanned 16 years, starting in the model shop working on wind tunnel models and lunar rover projects. From there Hayes moved to the Electronic Systems Branch and contributed to the SAGE III mission for the International Space Station. Hayes also worked with NASA’s X-59 quiet supersonic research aircraft before stepping into his current role. As DEIA project analyst, Hayes supports the center in identifying gaps and building a culture, environment, systems, and processes where everyone has fair opportunities to grow.  
      Who or what inspired you to choose your career and why? 
      That’s a twofold answer. On one end, I was just a curious kid and had this feeling and belief that the world was worth exploring. I wanted to be a marine biologist. I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to study plants and rocks. Everything was very fascinating to me, so NASA fit into that bucket of exploration and curiosity. It wasn’t specifically NASA, but it was exploration. 
      Then the other end is growing up as a kid where we didn’t have a lot of financial options. NASA had an Apprentice Program. The Apprentice Program actually gave me an opportunity to come out of high school, have a career trajectory, get some on-the-job experience, and get some schooling under my belt. A guy who already worked here reached out to my mom and said, “Hey, I know you have a kid coming out of high school. What’s he doing?” and shared that NASA was reopening its Apprentice Program. He encouraged me to apply. That conversation is how I ended up here. It aligned me to where I actually wanted to be, because I just wanted to see what the world and the universe was, regardless.
      What do you find most rewarding about working with NASA?  
      The exposure to new ideas and ability to explore! Every day there’s a reason to be excited and enthusiastic about the work you’re doing, the people you’re doing it with and where you’re doing it at. There is cutting edge technology, world-renowned thought leaders and the projects that are exploring the history of the universe. NASA will keep you on your toes, that’s for sure! 
      Outside of that, two big things: the people, which I already touched on. My career wouldn’t be what it was without the relationships that I’ve built throughout the journey. People who have just been curious about me, who’ve asked me questions, who’ve exposed me to different places, who’ve pulled up a chair to tables that I had no business being at just so I could listen and learn and invited me to places, exposed me to different centers, to different people. 
      In addition, “the meatball.” The meatball is an unavoidable logo that no matter where you are, inspires hope. The ability to have that and stand behind that and carry that is always exciting. 
      What do you enjoy doing outside of work?  
       I was on a call the other day and they said, “Describe yourself in three words.” Mine were “curiosity, spirituality, and adventure”. That’s why I’ve enjoyed my career because for me as a person, I’ve always liked exploration and adventure. NASA fits into me, rather than me fitting into NASA. 
      Outside of the gates, nothing changes. I like to find things to do, places to go. I’m big into finding moments. Taking pictures or finding snapshots in life. Whether it’s at a beach or at a park or holding a pinecone next to a pineapple and just seeing the similarities of creation and existence. 
      I like to have fun! I can roller-skate. I like to cook. I’m a really great cook. I hate washing dishes though! And I’m a mediocre bowler.  
       What advice would you give young people who might be interested in pursuing a career at NASA?  
       Do it but have the right perspective. Sometimes people look at NASA like a finish line or as an achievement, but that’s never been what NASA represents. We represent a launchpad. We have the resources and the ability to put things together to then shoot it to places we’ve never been, and it’s no difference with a career. 
      I started [at NASA] in my teens but we also have people who join the team mid or late career. People who are making the transitions to find new opportunities. So, no matter where they are, this is an environment that is fertile soil for the right seeds. So, if you come here, you have the ability not just to be planted in an environment, but also to grow to see what you’re made of. 
      How does your background and heritage contribute to your perspective and approach in your role at NASA?  
      In a big way because the work I do now is diversity and inclusion. Diversity meaning “a lot of pieces.” Whether it’s the workforce: there’s a lot of people from a lot of backgrounds. Whether it’s the missions: we have a lot of projects studying a lot of things. Or whether it’s exploration: we’re going to a lot of places that we’ve never been. 
      My background is no different than our mission forward. I’m a Black and Palestinian guy from a low-income neighborhood whose parents struggled with drugs. I’ve lived on both coasts of the country and been exposed to multiple cultures and environments. My parents have very different backgrounds. My mother’s a Christian. My father’s a Muslim. All of that exposure to different pieces has made me have the ability to step back and just look at a plate before I dive into it. That has allowed me to be able to see the value of the small things. Sometimes, even personally, I’ve known things in conversations or scenarios where I feel like I could contribute, but someone else didn’t see my value, so I didn’t give my all in that space. But because of my background, I know how valuable it is to hear someone’s one opinion or one thought or when their body language shifts, to not just pass over that. 
      That has allowed me to be effective in my work because a lot of what I do now is based on the relationships I’ve built and the people that I’ve gotten to know. I talk about it often: the advantages of growing up disadvantaged. Sometimes we can think about it as a hindrance or a roadblock. For me, I’ve always looked at the difficulties of my early upbringing as blessings. I learned resilience. I learned overcoming. I learned solution orientation. I learned mental agility. I learned all these things because of my background that now, as I’m in the workforce, as I’m working to accomplish a mission, all these are skill sets that are extremely important. 
      The 2024 theme for Black History Month is “African Americans and the Arts,” spanning the many impacts that Black Americans have had on visual arts, music, cultural movements and more. How have the arts played a role in your life?   
      The arts saved my life. It started in my teens, writing and getting exposed to poetry. I remember seeing this young group of kids in New York, and they performed poems telling stories about themselves that related to me in such a strong way. I had thought I was alone up until that moment and then realized other people feel things, too. It was that exposure to poetry that made me start doing my own self-reflection and got me into writing myself. Then, it was that writing that allowed me to start finding my voice. To start working through my anxiety. To not be overwhelmed and overthink everything. To get it out of my mind and put it onto a page. The more that I did that, year after year, poem after poem after poem, I started to learn how to craft and curate my words and how to become a better communicator. How to value in the words I spoke and not to use words, language and communication frivolously. 
      For me, the arts are why I am, who I am. It’s what allows me to connect with people now at NASA and to communicate our message passionately to the students that we see. It allows me to help pull something out of an engineer who may naturally feel like he’s an introvert, but I know how to now call something out of him and remind him of who he is. All that you might see as ‘good at a job’, all comes back from the pain of the poetry, the arts and everything that now fuels me to be where I am today. 
      Facebook logo @NASALaRC @NASA_Langley Instagram logo @NASA_Langley Linkedin logo @NASA-Langley-Research-Center Explore More
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    • By NASA
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      Brittny McGraw serves as News Chief in the Office of Communications at NASA’s Langley Research Center. She joined NASA Langley in September 2023, after a 20-year career as an award-winning broadcast journalist.NASA/David C. Bowman Brittny McGraw serves as News Chief in the Office of Communications at NASA’s Langley Research Center. She joined NASA Langley in September 2023, after a 20-year career as an award-winning broadcast journalist. Her broadcast career included stops in New Bern, N.C., Dayton, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Pa. and most recently Roanoke, Va. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and a bachelor’s degree in Romance Languages from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Brittny is excited to find new and innovative ways to share NASA Langley’s story.      

      Who or what inspired you to choose your career and why?   

      I’ve enjoyed communicating stories and impact since I was a third-grade student doing the school announcements. My mom recognized my interests in writing and public speaking and suggested I consider attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to major in journalism. I took that suggestion to heart. As a high school senior, I only applied to UNC-CH, because I felt my calling to be a journalist was predestined! Shortly after graduation I started my first reporting job in New Bern, N.C. and began a career that allowed me to give a voice to the voiceless, hold the powerful accountable, and keep my community informed about issues that would impact them. I’m always grateful I had the opportunity to live out the dreams of third grade me. 
      Along the way I realized my communications skills didn’t have to be limited to a newsroom. I saw the value of using my foundation as a journalist to uplift and amplify messaging for one organization. That’s how I found NASA Langley and I’m so glad I did! It has been wonderful helping people outside our gates understand how the work we’re doing is changing their lives and inspiring a better world.      

      What do you find most rewarding about working with NASA?   
      I love that NASA is a place where you can challenge yourself, learn, and grow in a supportive environment. I’m naturally curious and inquisitive and ask a *lot* of questions, and that’s encouraged here. It was a little scary stepping away from the news industry I was very familiar with and making the transition to an entirely new world of NASA. What I quickly realized is the basics of communications don’t change, no matter if you’re sharing breaking news or the latest achievement in aeronautics: you have to know how to share the impact of your work and why your audience should care. It has been great to develop my communications skills in new and different ways here at NASA Langley. 

      What do you enjoy doing outside of work?   

      I’m a fitness enthusiast so I love working out! Staying active takes me to my happy place. I run, do strength training, high-intensity interval training, and mobility and flexibility work. I’ve competed in fitness competitions, completed three half-marathons and one obstacle course race, and enjoy challenging myself physically and mentally. It’s the best feeling when you set a personal record on a power clean or a front squat, or you shave a few seconds off your one-mile run. I’m constantly amazed and proud of what my mind and body can do.  
      I also enjoy traveling the world with my sister. Two of the most beautiful places we’ve visited are Tahiti and its sister island, Moorea. There are so many fascinating places to see and people to meet, and we’re trying to do that one trip at a time.   

      What advice would you give to someone who might be interested in pursuing a career at NASA?   
      NASA is for everyone! I’d love to shout that from the rooftops! It takes people with a variety of skills to keep NASA Langley moving forward. I never imagined I’d have a news-centered job at a place known for aeronautics, science, and space exploration! But here I am! NASA Langley is its own ecosystem that needs everyone from accountants to business analysts to educators to firefighters, in addition to scientists, researchers, and engineers to be successful.    
      I think it’s key to think outside the box when pursuing career opportunities, because no matter if it’s NASA or another organization, there’s likely a way to use your unique talents and abilities to elevate their work.  

      How does your background and heritage contribute to your perspective and approach in your role at NASA?   
      I understand the importance of ensuring diverse voices have a seat at the table because there’s value in being able to see and understand the world through another person’s perspective. As a journalist, I knew there was never one side to a story, and in my role at NASA Langley I want to make sure we’re being inclusive with our communications products to highlight the depth and breadth of our work and our people. Studies consistently show that diversity in the workplace contributes to business growth, innovation, and creativity, which are key aspects of a thriving, healthy work environment. 

      The 2024 theme for Black History Month is “African Americans and the Arts,” spanning the many impacts that Black Americans have had on visual arts, music, cultural movements and more. How have the arts played a role in your life?    
      My parents encouraged my sister and me to be well-rounded and participate in a variety of extracurricular activities, so I was a dancer, pianist, and violinist growing up. They also exposed us to musicals, plays, symphonies, and operas from a young age, and through that I developed an appreciation for the arts that continues to this day. I also love to laugh and regularly attend stand-up comedy performances in the area. Laughter truly is the best medicine and can lift your spirits in an instant!  
      Facebook logo @NASALaRC @NASA_Langley Instagram logo @NASA_Langley Linkedin logo @NASA-Langley-Research-Center   
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      Brandon Sells joined NASA’s Langley Research Center in September 2023 as an aerospace engineer with the Aeronautics Systems Analysis Branch (ASAB) of the Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate (SACD).NASA/David C. Bowman Brandon Sells joined NASA’s Langley Research Center in September 2023 as an aerospace engineer with the Aeronautics Systems Analysis Branch (ASAB) of the Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate (SACD). Brandon earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering-aerospace concentration from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C. He continued his education at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. earning a master’s degree and Ph.D. in aeronautics and astronautics. Prior to joining NASA Langley, Brandon completed internships at Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
      Who or what inspired you to choose your career and why?  
      When I think about aeronautics, it’s the fact that something so heavy could fly so gracefully in the sky. Thinking about how we design these vehicles to do so really got me going. From then I started to put myself in positions to do that and my mom was great with that, too. Anything I wanted to do she would always try to put me in contact with people who could actually make that happen. One of the things she did was get me a tour at one of the business jet outfitters in Delaware. It was really cool and made me think I wanted to do *that,* which got me to now [working at NASA].
      What do you find most rewarding about working with NASA?  
      I feel like I can do anything here. It’s motivating because there are so many things outside of my role that I could do and still have an impact, so that’s really important to me. 
      What do you enjoy doing outside of work?  
      I really enjoy roller skating. It’s something I picked up during the pandemic. My dad used to be a speed skater and at the time I wasn’t that good at skating. It was something I wanted to do now that I had the time to do it. I’m also a big jazz buff. I picked that up from my grandfather. I like being outside, too. I like being competitive and playing soccer, ultimate frisbee, and flag football. I just enjoy being active and being around teams. And I’m a big Philadelphia Eagles fan!
      What advice would you give to someone who might be interested in pursuing a career at NASA?
      If they want to work at a place like this then they just need to be driven to be creative. That’s really what NASA allows us to do here in our technical areas. If we want to see something better in the future, then we have to figure out how the technology gets there. That’s really what NASA does across any center, not just here at Langley.  
      For young people interested in NASA, take advantage of anything that will allow you to be close to science, such as science, math, art, flying and rocket clubs at school. Also, get your hands on science and rocket kits and really get involved. I like hands-on activities and that allows you to experience what you may be doing here.
      How does your background and heritage contribute to your perspective and approach in your role at NASA?  
      One topic I shared in my interview examined the ability to look beyond technical feasibility and look at community integration and sustainability. A lot of the technology that we look at is so far off that we need business ventures to help bring the technology forward. What I don’t want is an instance where we stop allowing the technology to reach the general public. What I like doing is allowing the work and analysis to dictate how far we can push it so that diverse communities can use it. I don’t like when we have instances where aeronautics is limited to certain populations. Part of the work I do here in systems analysis is using the data to justify investments. If I can put together an analysis package that shows us that we can address the technology and address the community integration at the same time, that would be the greatest thing I can do.
      The 2024 theme for Black History Month is “African Americans and the Arts,” spanning the many impacts that Black Americans have had on visual arts, music, cultural movements and more. How have the arts played a role in your life?   
      Since I was about 7, I’ve been around dance primarily because of my sisters. It was easier for my mom to pick us all up at the same place! I’ve been in dance for almost 15 years, and I’ve learned a lot of different styles and different partner sets. It’s allowed me to think outside of a rigid frame. In dance or anything creative you have to address it with an open mind because it’s about flow. If you have a mindset that everything has to be a certain way, then you’re not able to see the joy and the impact of the art. It’s allowed me to be more successful in other areas of my life. It allowed me to talk to people that I may not have talked to before. I would encourage anyone to pick up a class in something because it forces you to be vulnerable, but it also allows you to learn.
      Facebook logo @NASALaRC @NASA_Langley Instagram logo @NASA_Langley Linkedin logo @NASA-Langley-Research-Center Explore More
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      Article 36 mins ago 5 min read Math, Mentorship, Motherhood: Behind the Scenes with NASA Engineers
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      Last Updated Feb 27, 2024 Related Terms
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