Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man” wouldn’t have happened without a veritable brigade of women. From 18th-century astronomer Caroline Herschel, the first woman to be paid for her scientific work, to Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, here are just a few of the extraordinary “sheroes” who opened up an entire galaxy of possibilities for the rest of us.
Written by Dean Robbins and illustrated by Lucy Knisley
Algebra. Calculus. Geometry. Margaret Hamilton loved them all. Slowly but surely, her passion for solving problems propelled her to MIT and, later, NASA, where she helped develop the onboard flight software for the Apollo space program. It was Hamilton’s code, in fact, that corrected a computer malfunction just minutes before Apollo 11’s lunar module was scheduled to land. Without her quick-witted ingenuity, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin might never have landed on the moon.
Written by Roda Ahmed and illustrated by Stasia Burrington
Before Mae Jemison became the first African-American woman to travel in space, she was just little Mae, a child who dreamed of dancing, gliding, and floating among billions of stars. Her mother told her that if she believed in it and worked hard for it, “anything [was] possible.” And so Jemison dreamed—and worked—her way into history.
Written by Carmella Van Vleet and Kathy Sullivan and illustrated by Nicole Wong
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” was a question that Kathy Sullivan quickly learned to dread. From a young age, Sullivan wanted to explore the world, learn to fly, and do exciting things—things that girls weren’t “supposed” to do. Nevertheless, she ignored the taunts of “girls don’t like those jobs.” Her persistence soon paid off, too. Before she knew it, Sullivan was a NASA astronaut, as well as the first woman to walk in space.
Written by Emily Arnold McCully
To say that Caroline Herschel was a trailblazer would be an understatement. Born in 1750 as the youngest daughter of a poor family in Germany, Herschel rose above bouts with typhus, which stunted her growth, and smallpox, which scarred her face, to build a world-class telescope with her brother, discover eight new comets, and become the first woman scientist to be employed by no less than King George III.
Written by Margot Lee Shetterly
A special young readers’ edition of Margot Lee Shetterly’s movie-inspiring tome gives the four African-American female “human computers” who worked at NASA during the Space Race their well-earned due. Fending off both racial discrimination and gender inequality, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden used nothing more than pencils, slide rules and adding machines to work out the trajectories that would launch the first astronauts into space.
Written by Megan Stine and illustrated by Ted Hammond
Who was Sally Ride? Only the first American woman astronaut to fly in space! She was more than that, too. Ride was also a competitive tennis player (Billie Jean King told her she could play pro if she wanted to), an astrophysicist who helped develop a robotic arm for space shuttles, an author, and an educator who worked to make science entertaining for upper elementary and middle-school students—girls in particular.