5 Women Expanding Diversity in Space Technology

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We all reach for the stars, but some people actually get to study or even fly among them. Thanks to NASA pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Sally Ride, women of all different backgrounds are given opportunities to work in the space industry. To honor such diverse women and celebrate their accomplishments in this world and beyond, we’re highlighting some of our favorite female scientists, aerospace engineers, astronauts and more. 

1Kellie Gerardi, the Citizen Astronaut

NASA's Artemis project is promising to land a woman on the moon by 2024. This is particularly exciting news for Kellie Gerardi, an aerospace and defense professional trained in space flight. The Girl Scout alum is also a popular influencer who posts space and STEM-focused content on her TikTok and other social media platforms.

@kelliegerardi Honestly wouldn’t change a single headline. Get in @tiktok ♬ original sound - Guy McLachlan

“Hundreds of humans have visited space in the last six decades, and yet only 65 of them have been women — just over 11%,” Gerardi said in an interview with CircleAround. “So you can understand why the announcement of NASA's new lunar program is so meaningful.” She’s currently preparing to join a Virgin Galactic space flight and is excited to share her experiences with her fellow researchers and followers. 

2Jessica Watkins, the First Black Woman To Live in Space for an Extended Mission

Astronaut Jessica Watkins is part of a small but growing legacy of Black women in space. She is set to join the International Space Station (ISS) and is a part of NASA's Artemis program. But first, she will serve as a mission specialist on the ISS, spending about six months living and working on the orbiting lab. While this is Watkins' first flight to space, she will be making history as the first Black woman to live in space for an extended mission.

According to NASA, Watkins reported for duty in August 2017 and has since worked on scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in International Space Station systems, spacewalks, robotics, and more. She will be one of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4, which will launch later this year.

3MiMi Aung, the Maven of Mars Exploration

Thanks to MiMi Aung, a Burmese-American scientist, we’ve discovered so much about Mars.  She earned a spot as one of TIME magazines Most Influential People of 2021 for overseeing the construction and launch of a helicopter drone system capable of withstanding the thin atmosphere of the Red Planet. 

Aung and the team behind the Ingenuity project successfully completed the first helicopter trip in April of 2021. Since then, the tiny device has flown to and from Mars more than 15 times. According to Bloomberg, she has paved the way for humans to explore areas that are not reachable by astronauts yet, allowing scientists to study Mars without compromising team safety.

4Erica Raine, the Rocket Scientist

Girl Scout alum and Gold Awardee Erica Raine has been in leadership positions since she was young. Today, she’s a program manager at Aerojet Rocketdyne, an American rocket and missile manufacturer. She’s worked with big names such as NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense. She helps oversee aerospace engineering projects and the development of rocket engines to ensure they are ready for launch. 

In an interview for CircleAround, Raine provided some advice for young girls interested in STEM. “Focus on making something,” she said. “Moving something from just thinking about it to doing it. You’ll gain confidence from that, and you learn so much about what works and what doesn’t work.”

5Wally Funk, the Oldest Person in Space

At 82, Wally Funk made history when she flew into space with Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' space travel company. Although the experience above Earth lasted less than 10 minutes, it solidified her status as the oldest person to go into space.

Funk, who received her pilot’s license at 17 years old, was an early candidate for the Woman in Space Program. Though she had applied to NASA for various missions, she never made it into space as an astronaut. She connected with Bezos, who invited her to join the initial launch, an experience she’ll never forget.

The Bottom Line 

Amazing women are paving the way for even more people of diverse backgrounds to blast off into space. Their remarkable accomplishments have helped us discover so much about our own home and beyond. We hope girls can be inspired by their stories so we will have even more women in space in the future. 

Tags: Girl Scout, Inspiration, KNOWHERNAME

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Written By

Katka Lapelosová

Katka is a writer from New York City, currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. See Full Bio

CircleAround is owned by One GS Media, a subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA, and we make financial distributions to benefit the next generation of Girl Scouts. We strive to make the world a better place by supporting each other today and emboldening the women leaders of tomorrow.

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