A Cosmic Mother's Day: Tales from Astronaut Anna Fisher, 1st Mom in Space

NASA astronaut Anna Lee Fisher, the first mother in space, highlights what is was like to fly on the space shuttle Discovery only months after giving birth to her first daughter.

Fisher was one of the first six female astronaut candidates selected for NASA's first class of space shuttle astronauts in January 1978. She later flew as a mission specialist on the second flight of the space shuttle Discovery, STS-51A, in November 1984.

"I was assigned to my flight two weeks before I delivered my oldest daughter," Fisher said in a NASA video. "I remember I delivered Kristin on a Friday and I was at the Monday morning eight o'clock meeting the following Monday. [Astronaut Anna Fisher's Space Career in Photos]

Astronaut Anna Fisher poses in an Apollo spacesuit next to a rack of other spacesuits during training for a Hubble Space Telescope servicing spacewalk in 1980. (Image credit: NASA)

After being chosen as an ASCAN in 1978 and completing her training, astronaut Anna Lee Fisher logged close to 200 hours in space and she served as chief of the Space Station Branch from 1996-2002 during the early construction days of the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)

"I wanted to make a statement that, 'yes I had a child, but I’m committed to this and I'm going to be here,'" Fisher added in the video. "I was Capcom [spacecraft communicator] at the same time that I had a new baby and training for my flight, so it was quite the challenging time."

STS-51A was the second flight of the orbiter Discovery, and Fisher said she could not have picked a more exciting mission to fly on, according to the NASA video. [Top 12 Warrior Moms in History]

During the mission, the crew deployed two satellites: Canada's Anik D-2 (Telesat H) and Hughes' LEASAT-1 (Syncom IV-1). As the first space salvage mission, the crew also retrieved the Palapa B-2 and Westar VI satellites for return to Earth, NASA. Fisher servedas arm operator for recovering both satellites from orbit and lead for deploying one of the two satellites, she said.

Fisher logged a total of 192 hours in space on her first Discovery flight. She served NASA in many other roles, including Chief of the Astronaut Office’s Space Station branch and working on the Orion spacecraft, which will fly beyond low Earth orbit to explore deep space.

Being a new mom posed challenges for Fisher, but she acknowledged that it would not have possible without the help she received from those on the ground.

On Nov. 12, 1984, the Discovery STS-51A astronauts — from left to right astronauts David M. Walker, Dale A. Gardner, Anna Lee Fisher, Frederick H. (Rick) Hauck and Joseph P. Allen — celebrate their mission while still in space. The seven-day mission launched on Nov. 8, 1984. (Image credit: NASA)

"I was absolutely blessed with the lady who took care of Kristin — it was teamwork.” Fisher said in the NASA video, which the space agency posted on YouTube. "Without her, I never could have done what I did because I knew that Kristin was 100 percent safe and was getting all the love and care."

After more than three decades of service, Fisher retired last month, as the last member of NASA's first group of space shuttle astronauts to still work for the agency.

"I think the future for NASA is really exiting. I thought that when I came [to the agency] at the beginning of the shuttle program," Fisher said. "I think it is a real exciting time [for NASA] and I am jealous — I have to hand it over to the new people that are waiting in line and I'll be cheering from the side lines."

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Samantha Mathewson
Contributing Writer

Samantha Mathewson joined Space.com as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.