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Anna Lee Fisher- The first mother in space

Stefan Andrews

In January 1978, NASA opened its doors to the very first female astronaut candidates, allowing six women to enroll in a training program that would last until August 1979. Anna Lee Fisher was one of them.

An expert in chemistry and medicine, Fisher had already received degrees in both fields, by the time she got accepted at NASA. Following the year of training, she got equipped for being a mission specialist among the crews in the space shuttle.

Portrait of Astronaut candidate Anna L. Fisher in a blue flight uniform

Her first assignment revolved around the development and testing of numerous spacewalk procedures, contingency repairing procedures, and the testing of the shuttle’s “robotic arms” capability. Fisher became an evaluator and verified the readiness of many shuttles. She also facilitated newcomers in NASA, explaining the operation concepts while providing work assistance at the health maintenance facilities.

Photo showing the first class of female astronauts. From left to right are Shannon W. Lucid, Margaret Rhea Seddon, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Judith A. Resnik, Anna L. Fisher, and Sally K. Ride

In 1983, she gave birth to her first daughter Kristin Anne. The following year, on November 8th, 1984, she would fly into space as a mission specialist aboard the Discovery.

The mission required a deployment of two satellites while also recovering two others which had previously failed to operate. On board, she was accompanied by the spacecraft commander Frederick Hauck, pilot David Walker, and fellow mission specialists Dr. Joseph Allen and Dale Gardner. Upon the completion of the space flight, Anna Lee Fisher had logged a total of 192 hours in space, becoming the first mother who flew. Her husband, fellow astronaut, Frederick Fisher, would also fly a mission, but a year later, in 1985.

Astronaut Anna Lee Fisher


Fisher in Houston, Texas, a photo from a special “Women of Flight Special Collection”  photo credit: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive

In 1988, before giving birth to her second child, Kara Lynne, Anna Lee Fisher decided to take an extended leave in order to dedicate to her family.

She returned to the Astronaut Office in 1996 and was assigned to the Operation Planning Branch to work on procedures and training matters that supported the International Space Station. She had different assignments in the following years.

Anna L. Fisher  photo credit: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive

Aside from the iconic status of the first mother who flew into space, Fisher is further known for a photograph that was widely shared and reused over the internet. The image is part of a series taken by photographer John Bryson and shows Fisher wearing a helmet and space suit; she is looking away from the camera, almost in profile.

Here is another story from us: Hidden Figures: The stories of three extraordinary women from NASA

The photograph has been used in numerous promotions and artistic tributes. So far, it has promoted famous bands like Muse, The Arctic Monkeys, MGMT, and Incubus. In 1991, the British singer Kate Bush also wore a helmet and took a similar pose in the video of her single Rocket Man.

Stefan Andrews

Stefan is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to The Vintage News. He is a graduate in Literature. He also runs a blog – This City Knows.