Woman to command first shuttle launch since Columbia

The first space shuttle to launch since the Columbia exploded in February 2003 will be commanded by a woman, Women’s E-News reports.

Eileen Collins already has a number of firsts under her belt – she was NASA’s first female pilot in 1995 and its first shuttle commander in 1999.

But the gender gap is closing across NASA – 22% of its executives are women.

This is in stark contrast to its previous record – in 1962, NASA pulled its female astronauts out of the running for space flight, deciding that they could pose a ‘distraction’ to male astronauts and space might ‘drain’ their femininity. This led to the USSR beating the US to put the first woman in space.

In fact, women’s bodies have been found to be better suited to space flight than men.

If the shuttle launch goes off without a hitch, the crew will test new safety equipment, deliver supplies to the International Space Station, take three spacewalks and try twists, flips and flight maneuvers not yet attempted outside Earth’s atmosphere.