The first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, blazed a trail for the many female spaceflyers who would follow. Tereshkova, a Soviet cosmonaut, was selected from more than 400 applicants to launch on the Vostok 6 mission June 16, 1963.
In June 1983, NASA astronaut Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman in space when she launched on the STS-7 mission of the space shuttle Challenger. She was the third woman in space, after Valentina Tereshkova and Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya, who flew on the Soyuz T-7 mission August 19, 1982.
The first woman to complete a spacewalk, or extravehicular activity (EVA), was Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya, who spacewalked during her second flight to orbit in July 1984.
Astronaut Kathy Sullivan of NASA became the first American woman to make a spacewalk when she floated outside the space shuttle in October 1984.
British chemist Helen Sharman became the first British person to fly in space when she visited the Mir space station aboard the Soyuz TM-12 in 1991.
NASA astronaut Mae Jemison flew on space shuttle Endeavour in September 1992, becoming the first black woman to travel to space.
Roberta Bondar became Canada's first female astronaut when she flew on the STS-42 space shuttle mission in 1992.
The first Japanese woman in space was Chiaki Mukai, representing the National Space Development Agency of Japan, who flew on the STS-65 flight of the space shuttle Columbia in July 1994. At the time, she set the record for the longest flight to date by a female astronaut.
Doctor Claudie Haignere was the first (and only) French woman to travel to space when she flew to the Russian space station Mir in 1996.
NASA astronaut Eileen Collins was the first woman to command a space shuttle mission, a role that required an astronaut to have at least 1,000 hours of experience piloting jet aircraft. Collins commanded the STS-93 space shuttle mission in July 1999, and went on to command a second time in July 2005.
The first female member of an International Space Station crew was NASA astronaut Susan Helms, who served as a flight engineer during the Expedition 2 mission from March to August 2001. It was just the second mission of the fledgling space laboratory.
Iranian-American entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari became the first female space tourist when she funded her own way to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz space capsule in 2006 through the firm Space Adventures.
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson was the first woman to command the International Space Station when she took the helm of the outpost in April 2008. She commanded the station's Expedition 16 mission while serving a six-month tour of duty in orbit.
South Korean astronaut Yi So-yeon became her country's first space traveler when she rode to the International Space Station on Russia's Soyuz TMA-12 in April 2008.
The woman who has made the longest single spaceflight is NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, who lived and worked in orbit for 195 days while serving on the International Space Station's Expedition 15 mission in 2007.
The woman who has spent the most total time in space is Peggy Whitson, who has logged 376 days, 17 hours and 22 minutes in orbit over the span of two trips to the International Space Station.
China's first female astronaut Liu Wang waves to supporters while clad in a spacesuit just before boarding the Shenzhou 9 space capsule for a successful June 19, 2012 launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
Four women serving together on the International Space Station on April 14, 2010, represented the highest number of women in space simultaneously. Clockwise from lower right are NASA astronauts Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, both STS-131 mission specialists; and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Expedition 23 flight engineer; along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, STS-131 mission specialist.