On November 8, 1984, American astronaut Anna Lee Fisher became the first mother in space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery as a mission specialist of NASA’s STS-51-A mission. It was her only spaceflight.

November 8 story of what happened this day in Science, Technology, Astronomy, and Space Exploration history.

Anna Lee Fisher iconic photo
This iconic photo of astronaut Anna Lee Fisher captures a moment of intense determination and pioneering spirit. Taken around 1984, it shows Fisher in her NASA space suit, her gaze fixed intently forward, embodying both concentration and resolve. This image has become a symbol of women’s achievements in space exploration, representing Fisher’s groundbreaking role as one of NASA’s first female astronauts and the first mother in space.

Anna Lee Fisher

Anna Lee Fisher is an American chemist, emergency physician, and a former NASA astronaut. Born on August 24, 1949, in New York City, Fisher was one of the first six women selected to be NASA astronauts in 1978, a group famously known as the “NASA’s First Six Women Astronauts”, which included Sally Ride, the first American woman in space [see notes 1]. This selection was significant as it marked the introduction of women astronauts into the space program, which had previously been an all-male domain.

Fisher’s education and career are marked by notable achievements. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry in 1971, and a Doctor of Medicine in 1976, both from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and a Master of Science in Chemistry in 1987, also from UCLA. Her academic background in both chemistry and medicine was instrumental in her selection and success as an astronaut.

In her NASA career, Fisher is best known for her participation in the STS-51-A mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1984. This was the second flight for Discovery and is particularly memorable for being the first space mission to retrieve satellites, namely the Palapa B2 and Westar 6, and return them to Earth. This mission was a critical demonstration of the Space Shuttle’s capabilities in satellite deployment and retrieval.

The first mother in space

Anna Lee Fisher became the first mother in space on November 8, 1984
Anna Lee Fisher became the first mother in space on November 8, 1984

A significant and noteworthy aspect of Anna Lee Fisher’s career is that she was the first mother to travel into space. This milestone occurred during her mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-51-A mission in November 1984. At the time, she had a young daughter, further highlighting her role as a trailblazer for women, particularly mothers, in the field of space exploration.

Fisher’s achievement as the first mother in space is particularly remarkable considering the era in which it occurred. In the early 1980s, there were still significant societal barriers and stereotypes about the roles and capabilities of women, especially those with children. Fisher’s successful mission served not only as a testament to her skills and determination as an astronaut but also as an inspiration and symbol of progress for women balancing careers in demanding fields with motherhood.

This milestone is often celebrated in discussions about diversity and inclusion in space exploration, as it reflects the broader shifts towards acknowledging and accommodating the diverse backgrounds and life experiences of astronauts.

Anna Lee Fisher (the first mother in space) near the aft flight deck of the Space Shuttle Discovery
Anna Lee Fisher near the aft flight deck of the Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-51-A mission. Image: NASA

After STS-51-A

After her spaceflight, Fisher continued to contribute to the space program. She took on various roles, including working in the Space Shuttle Program Office on various projects and supporting other Space Shuttle flights as a Capcom (Capsule Communicator) in Mission Control.

Fisher’s contributions extend beyond her astronaut career. As a chemist and physician, she has been involved in medical and scientific research. Her expertise in these fields has been valuable in advancing our understanding of space medicine and the effects of space travel on human health.

Anna Lee Fisher is recognized not only for her achievements in space exploration but also as a role model and pioneer for women in science and spaceflight.


  1. NASA’s First Class of Female Astronauts were Shannon W. Lucid, Margaret Rhea Seddon, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Judith A. Resnik, Anna L. Fisher, and Sally K. Ride.
First six women astronauts of NASA
From left to right are Shannon W. Lucid, Margaret Rhea Seddon, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Judith A. Resnik, Anna L. Fisher, and Sally K. Ride. NASA selected all six women as their first female astronaut candidates in January 1978, allowing them to enroll in a training program that they completed in August 1979. Image: NASA


M. Özgür Nevres

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