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
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
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.
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.
- 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.
- “Anna Lee Fisher Was the First Mom in Space; She Now Embarks On a New Mission: USC Viterbi” on the USC Viterbi School of Engineering website
- “Astronaut Anna Fisher: The First Mom in Space” on Space.com
- “Meet The First Mother in Space” on the Xploration Station website
- Interview with Anna L. Fisher on the NASA history portal
- Anna Lee Fisher on Wikipedia
- NASA’s First Class of Female Astronauts on the NASA website
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