For American women, the road (or airstream?) to space has been rocky. Bettyann Hotlzmann Kevles, author of Almost Heaven: The Story of Women in Space, describes the challenges faced by women who dreamed of becoming astronauts:
…A Princeton professor who chaired the influential Space Science Board at the National Academy of Sciences… declared that the possibility of space travel “looks bleak” for women because, among others things, there were the “millions of dollars” he estimated it would cost to design a suit. But “the very best reason for not choosing women astronauts,” he stated, as if it was truly documented, “was the fact that women tend to get married. You spend all that money and time training them, and then they get married and have children. You can’t expect them to leave a couple of kids at home and take off into space.” Why not? Dads did.
In 1963, Valentina Tereshkova, a Russian cosmonaut, became the first women to orbit the earth. Two years later America saw the first Astronaut Barbie Doll. It took another eighteen years before a real American woman was allowed to go to space. In 1983 Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly into space. As of March 2006, there have been more than 400 humans in space but only 31 of them have been American women. Two more women are scheduled to fly on the next Space Shuttle Discovery mission (STS-121) in July 2006. Visit the NASA website for more information.