Moms in Space
This year for Mother's Day, let's take a look at some of the moms who have launched — or will launch soon — into space. From Anna Fisher, the first mother in space, to Serena Auñón-Chancellor, who will take her first trip to space on June 6, these fearless women build and support their families while working to advance science and society through groundbreaking research and exploration. This isn't a comprehensive list, for sure, but one we'll add to over time.
Anna Fisher: The 1st Space Mom
The first mom in space, Anna Fisher, joined NASA in 1978. Fisher launched and returned successfully on space shuttle Discovery in1984, becoming the first mother ever to travel to space. In total, she logged about 200 hours in space. Before her days at NASA, Fisher earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and a Doctor of Medicine from the University of California, Los Angeles.
In addition to serving as a boundary-breaking astronaut, Fisher served as a physician in the recovery helicopter for three space shuttle missions, helped to develop rescue procedures for shuttle missions and worked as chief of the space station branch from 1996 to 2002, when the International Space Station was first being constructed. Just last year, after over three decades of service, Fisher retired from NASA.
In 2008, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg flew to space for the first time, on the space shuttle Discovery, and spent two weeks on the International Space Station. In 2013, after becoming a mother, Nyberg launched on a six-month mission to the space station.
After completing her doctorate in mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, Nyberg joined NASA's Crew and Thermal Systems Division as an environmental control systems engineer. After studying firefighter-suit cooling tech to improve thermal controls in spacesuits, she went on to become an astronaut. So far, Nyberg has accumulated 180 days in space over the course of two missions, according to NASA.
Selected by NASA in 2013, Anne McClain completed astronaut candidate training in 2015 and is qualified for assignment. McClain attended graduate school, where she studied aerospace engineering and international relations. McClain is currently training to fly to the International Space Station in November, NASA officials said.
McClain also has served as a senior army aviator, has logged over 2,000 flight hours in 20 different aircraft and has received a number of military honors. At the same time, McClain has had a completely different career: a professional rugby player! McClain recently made headlines when she posed for a spacesuit photo shoot with her 4-year-old son.
After serving as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force starting in 1983 and receiving her doctorate in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts in 1991, Catherine, or "Cady," Coleman was selected by NASA in 1992.
Having served with NASA as a lead mission specialist and a backup U.S. crewmember, among other roles, Coleman logged more than 4,330 hours in space aboard the space shuttle Columbia and the International Space Station, NASA officials said. In 2016, Coleman left NASA.
As the first mom to serve on a long-duration mission to the International Space Station for NASA, Nicole Stott launched on the space shuttle Discovery in 2009, according to NASA, where she spent a total of 91 days in space supporting scientific research. Then, she flew again on Discovery in 2011 as a mission specialist.
Stott earned a Master of Science in engineering management from the University of Central Florida and went on to serve with NASA for 27 years. She retired from NASA in 2015 to pursue a full-time career as an artist and advocate for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) education.
Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1996, Heide Piper (whose full name is Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper) completed two years of training and evaluation and served as lead astronaut office representative for payloads in the Astronaut Office EVA branch, according to NASA. Previously, Piper had extensive experience with the U.S. Navy.
Piper served aboard two space flights — STS-115 in 2006 and STS-126 in 2008 — ultimately spending over 27 days in space and more than 30 hours outside the shuttle over five spacewalks. Piper retired from NASA in 2009 to return to the U.S. Navy.
After receiving her Doctor of Medicine in 2001, Serena Auñón-Chancellor served as both a resident and chief resident in internal medicine at The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). She also completed an aerospace medicine residency at UTMB and is board certified in internal and aerospace medicine, NASA officials have said. She has a daughter named Serafina.
Auñón-Chancellor was selected by NASA in 2009 and, in addition to her extensive training, spent two months in Antarctica from 2010 to 2011 hunting for meteorites with the ANSMET (Antarctic Search for Meteorites) expedition. She also served as the lead Capcom, or capsule communicator, for the SpaceX-4 and SpaceX-8 cargo resupply missions. Auñón-Chancellor will launch on her first spaceflight on June 6.
A former astronaut with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Naoko Yamazaki graduated with both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Tokyo, according to JAXA.
Yamazaki was selected as an astronaut candidate for the International Space Station in 1999 and was certified as an astronaut in 2001. In 2008, she was assigned as a crewmember for the STS-131(19A) mission, and in 2010, she flew to the space station aboard the space shuttle Discovery. In 2011, Yamazaki retired from JAXA.
After graduating from Moscow Bauman High Technical College in 1980, Elena Kondakova began working at RSC Energia, Russia's leading rocket and space enterprise, doing research and scientific experimentation. In 1989, she was selected as a cosmonaut candidate by RSC-Energia Main Design Bureau and was sent to begin general space training, according to NASA.
Kondakova completed her first flight from 1994 to 1995, visiting Russia's Mir space station, and was in space for 169 days. In 1997, she completed her second flight aboard NASA's sixth shuttle mission, to rendezvous and dock with Mir. In total, Kondakova logged over 178 days in space.
Claudie Haigneré (Claudie André-Deshays) — a doctor of medicine with certificates in biology and sports medicine, aviation and space medicine, and rheumatology — was the first French woman in space, according to the European Space Agency.
After receiving a diploma in biomechanics and physiology of movement and a doctorate in neuroscience, she flew on the Cassiopée mission from Aug. 17 to Sept. 2, 1996. Haigneré has one daughter. She retired from the European Space Agency in 2002.