From engineers and tech CEOs to astronauts and space recruiters, gifted and passionate women worldwide are focusing their eyes on the astronomical horizon – and they represent the cutting edge of what humanity can do in space. These eight women are changing the space race and altering how we look at the world above our heads:
1. Naomi Kurahara
Kurahara is an electrical engineer by training and graduated from the International Space University, founded Infostellar, a company that’s disrupting our old models of satellite communications, in 2016. Her company aims to have the largest ground station network on the planet. As the number of satellites in Earth’s orbit continues to grow, her company is attempting to help them anchor their networks to the planet and share space effectively.
2. Anousheh Ansari
Ansari, an engineer by training, was the world’s first female space tourist when she launched off-planet in 2006 to go to the International Space Station. Her family sponsors a space travel prize for competitors to create safe private spaceships, and Ansari is now investing in inventions across India that will help peoples’ access to technology.
3. Natalya Brikner
Brikner was the CEO of her own space entrepreneurship company before she turned 30, and she personally helped to develop the technology that inspired the company’s launch: rocket propulsion for tiny satellites that can fit in the palm of your hand. The coin-sized propulsion systems became available for commercial use in 2016.
4. Claudia Kessler
Kessler is the CEO of HE Space, a European space recruitment company, and in 2016 she launched the ‘Die Astronautin’ campaign, which aims to send the first ever German woman to space. Die Astronautin aims to send their female astronaut to the ISS in 2020.
5. Maggie Aderin-Pocock
Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock is one of Britain’s most beloved space commentators, hosting a television program called “The Sky at Night,” and is one of the world’s most elite telescope-makers. She has assisted U.K.’s Ministry of Defense with tracking landmines and is now a hybrid educator and academic, combining her research with TV presenting duties and traveling the U.K. getting kids excited about engineering and space.
6. Jo Dunkley
Dunkley is a professor of physics at Princeton whose research focuses on discovering the origins of the universe via maps of extremely ancient light across galaxies. She is also an outspoken advocate for attracting more women into the physics field. “The ability to see someone you can imagine being, is everything, and gives you the confidence to try things out and aim for something,” she says.
7. Zita Martins
Portuguese astrobiologist and BBC Expert Women Scientist, Dr. Zita Martins, is a fellow of the Royal Society and works on special projects with NASA. Her research analyzes meteorite fragments for organic material and is helping to prepare for the search for bacteria and microbes in Mars’s desert sands. She’s also currently working on testing systems in deserts on Earth, for future missions to Mars.
8. Minal Sampath
As one of the head engineers at the Indian Space Research Organization, Sampath has overseen the launch of the country’s Mars Orbiter Mission in 2013 and, in 2017, its record-setting launch of 104 satellites at once. She one day plans to be the first female director of a space center.