Women Exploring Space

By Becky Thornton

Hidden Figures, the story of three brilliant women who helped launch John Glenn into orbit, was a hit on the page and screen. This list outlines even more major contributions women have made in our exploration of the stars.

  • Rise of the Rocket Girls : The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars

    2016 by Nathalia Holt

    "In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn't turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible."

    Such a great read, Natalie Holt does an excellent and entertaining job with the story of these women.

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  • Hidden Figures : The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

    2016 by Margot Lee Shetterly

    "Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future."

    Read the book, watch the movie. Both are very worth your time.

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  • Rocket Girl : The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America's First Female Rocket Scientist

    2013 by George D Morgan

    The story of America's first satellite launched by the combined effort of a brilliant farm girl from North Dakota and the famous German scientist. Told by Mary Sherman Morgan's son, you also get an interesting perspective from his memories of his mother.

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  • The Mercury 13 : The Untold Story of Thirteen American Women and the Dream of Space Flight

    2003 by Martha Ackmann

    "In 1961, just as NASA launched its first man into space, a group of women underwent secret testing in the hopes of becoming America’s first female astronauts. They passed the same battery of tests at the legendary Lovelace Foundation as did the Mercury 7 astronauts, but they were summarily dismissed by the boys’ club at NASA and on Capitol Hill. The USSR sent its first woman into space in 1963; the United States did not follow suit for another twenty years."

    Delve into what could have been and never was, at once both uplifting and heartbreaking.

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  • Sally Ride : America's First Woman in Space

    2014 by Lynn Sherr

    Sally Ride is beloved as one of the first major female figures in space exploration. This book pulls from her personal diaries, files, letters, and interviews to give a deep look at, not only the public figure, but her private life and the relationships she held dear. It also gives you a unique perspective on NASA's work during the time she was active.

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  • My Dream of Stars : From Daughter of Iran to Space Pioneer

    2010 by Anousheh Ansari

    "In her heartwarming and empowering memoir, space pioneer Anousheh Ansari tells the story of her childhood in Iran and her family's exodus to America after the Islamic Revolution. After settling down in Texas, Anousheh built a computer technology firm from the ground up, which eventually realized a net worth of $750 million and ultimately allowed her to achieve her childhood dream of spaceflight. In her role as the first-ever female commercial spaceflight participant, her story became politicized and fraught with the prejudices and obstacles she had to overcome as an Iranian woman."

    This is a really unique and new story combining the current climate of revolutions, refugees, and commercial spaceflight.

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  • The Glass Universe : How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars

    2016 by Dava Sobel

    A fascinating story of the group of women who worked with the glass photographic plates at the Harvard College Observatory which helped discern what stars were made of, divided the stars into meaningful categories for further research, and found a way to measure distances across space by starlight.

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  • Black Hole Blues : And Other Songs from Outer Space

    2016 by Janna Levin

    "In Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, Janna Levin recounts the fascinating story of the obsessions, the aspirations, and the trials of the scientists who embarked on an arduous, fifty-year endeavor to capture the sound of the elusive gravitational waves."

    Levin is a theoretical cosmologist currently active in the field. Her other books, How the Universe Got Its Spots and A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, are equally worth a read.

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  • Women Aviators : From Amelia Earhart to Sally Ride, Making History in Air and Space

    2009 by Bernard Marck

    Bringing it down to exploration of the closer-to-earth skies, this book looks at record-breaking aviatrixes (what a job title!). Tales of bravery and adventure abound.

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  • Wonder Women : 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History

    2016 by Sam Maggs

    This colorful guide introduces you to scientists, inventors, and adventurers who helped us discover our world. It provides interviews with current professionals in the field as well as extensive resource lists for you to jump off from and learn more!

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  • Women In Science : 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

    2016 by Rachel Ignotofsky

    Absolutely beautiful illustrations and a diverse representation of women scientists throughout history.

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  • Headstrong : 52 Women Who Changed Science—and the World

    2015 by Rachel Swaby

    Featuring Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, this book has inspirational profiles covering the span of their lives and research.

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