Happy Birthday Helen Sharman – Britain’s first Astronaut in Space!

Posted on Thursday May 30, 2019

Helen Sharman. First British women in space.

On this day (30th May) in 1963 Britain’s first Astronaut in Space and the first woman to visit the Mir space station was born.

Helen Sharman – a 27-year-old from Sheffield – made history 18th May 1991 by becoming Britain’s first astronaut in space, a whopping 24 years before Tim Peake. Dr Helen Sharman isn’t your typical astronaut, she wasn’t a fighter-pilot-turned-astronaut, at one stage she worked as a food chemist for Mars Confectionary looking at the chemistry of ice cream and chocolate!

It was after hearing a job advert on the radio saying “astronaut wanted: no experience necessary” her journey began. The astronaut scheme, called Project Juno, was a unique collaboration between the Soviet Union and private British companies. The goal was to foster UK-Soviet relations by flying a British astronaut on the Mir space station. The selection process for a Project Juno astronaut was pretty fierce, but thanks to Helen’s scientific background, physical fitness and, as she says, her ‘normality’ she beat nearly 13,000 other applicants. After a rigorous 18 month training programme, Helen spent eight days on the Mir space station. While in space, she focused on biological experiments and chatted with British school children over amateur radio.

In the end, Helen was the only candidate from Project Juno to fly into space, and, until Tim Peake launched in 2015, she was the only British astronaut to fly under the UK flag. Other Brits, such as Michael Foale and Piers Sellers, flew as NASA astronauts thanks to their dual UK-US citizenship.

We think Helen’s not only an inspirational woman, but an inspirational person in general! Happy Birthday Helen!