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Women reaching for the stars

Frau im Raumanzug

World Women's Day on 8 March

In 2018 we will celebrate 100 years of women's suffrage. And 55 years ago, with Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman flew into space. When will the first female German astronaut finally follow and how far does equality in space go? And what does all this have to do with the DPMA?

Hidden Figures - Unknown Heroes of NASA

In the 1950s and 1960s, women with African-American roots worked for NASA in the United States as "computers": At a time when racial segregation was still the order of the day, they calculated trajectories or evaluated measurement data. The mathematician Katherine Johnson played a decisive role in the advance into space. Their calculations brought the first US-Americans into space, into orbit and onto the moon. In November 2015, President Barack Obama awarded the United States' highest civilian honour, the Freedom Medal, to Katherine Johnson. And only recently, the film "Hidden Figures - Unknown Heroes" drew attention to this largely unknown history of NASA research.

Code name "Tchaica" - the first woman in space

In order to win in the "contest of systems", the first woman flew into space in June 1963 with the Soviet citizen Valentina Terezhkova. As a trained seamstress, she continued her training as a technician in an evening school alongside her work. And even as a child, she had dreamed of a journey to the stars and would have flown there "... even on a broomstick." The space flight of the enthusiastic skydiver lasted 71 hours, 48 times the young woman with the code name "Tschaika" (seagull) orbited the earth. She was the tenth person in space and the sixth cosmonaut of the USSR. But it should take a whole 19 years until another woman, Svetlana Sawitskaya, conquered space and even undertook a space-walk. Because, as the world only learned 30 years later, woman's first space flight was nearly a disaster: the spaceship rose higher and higher because of an "inaccuracy" in the automatic program. Only on the second flight day the error could be corrected and brought to a normal trajectory.

Almost 20 years after Walentina Terezhkova, the first American, Sally Ride, flew into space on June 18,1983 as the third woman. In 2012, the first taikonaut from China, Liu Yang, followed. Women now make up fifty percent of US astronaut team.

Equality in space: "Die Astronautin" wants to bring the first German woman into space in 2020

And German female cosmonauts or astronauts? They are not yet on the "list of astronauts". There were certainly two German candidates for a space flight in the 1980s: Heike Walpot and Renate Brümmer - they completed astronaut training, but were not deployed.

This is about to change: The initiative "Die Astronautin" wants to bring the first German woman into space in 2020. In April 2017, two astronauts were selected in cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Dr. Insa Thiele-Eich and Dr. Suzanna Randall started their training for the flight into space in August 2017. The mission aims to inspire young girls and women in particular for space travel, natural sciences, mathematics and technology.

The DPMA is a partner of "Komm – mach MINT" initiative

If you want to live your dream, you don't have to fly into space right away, studying one of the MINT subjects (mathematics, computer science, natural sciences, technology) opens up the best career opportunities. For example, as a patent examiner for aerospace technology at the DPMA, where the latest technical innovations are put to trial every day. Prerequisite for this profession is a scientific or technical degree and professional experience in this field. In addition to family-friendly working time models, the DPMA also offers good career opportunities as a manager of one of the 32 patent departments, for example. The DPMA would like to attract more women to this activity and significantly increase the current proportion of almost 20 percent. For this reason the office is a partner of the nationwide initiative "Komm – mach MINT.", which wants to inspire women and girls for technical professions.

The dream of space

The dream of space lives on. In a few years it should even be possible to fly to Mars. And perhaps fifty percent of the crew on this mission will be women. Walentina Terezhkova, who celebrated her 80th birthday last year, would still like to fly along to see if there was life there.... she would not even bother that there would be no return, because of the distance.


Last updated: 20/03/18 


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