We asked over 50 women space leaders for words of inspiration. Here’s what they told us

We wouldn’t be where we are today without the leaders of the past — so, to build our future, perhaps we should celebrate the innovators of our present. 

The history of women’s contributions to the space industry is significantly shorter than it is for men,  simply because women were dealt a delayed start in the race. For example, NASA’s astronaut program began in 1959, but it wasn’t until 1978 when the agency’s lineup of astronaut candidates finally included women. Yet, thanks to many brave trailblazers who pushed against the unfair boundaries of equality in space exploration, the number of leading ladies writing their way into history books has risen rapidly. Decades later, I think it’s safe to say that, although we still have more work to do, a lot of great work has been done.

Valentina Tereshkova, for instance, was the first woman to soar into space in 1963. Sally Ride became the first American woman to reach space in 1982 and, in 1992, Mae Jemison became the first African American woman to fly to space and experience the awe of Earthlight. Peggy Whitson, in April of 2017, clocked the most hours in space for any U.S. astronaut. 

More recently, we’ve been adding leading ladies to the list in the commercial space sector, too. 

Anousheh Ansari was the inaugural female space tourist in 2006, Beth Moses was the first to fly on a commercially launched vehicle in 2019 and Sian Proctor, in 2021, became the first African American woman to pilot a spacecraft on the first all-civilian space mission. Also that year, 82-year-old Mary “Wally” Funk secured her spot in history as the oldest person to go to space (beating John Glenn’s record that was in place for more than two decades!) Trust me, if I could list all the women who’ve been to space and what they accomplished, this article would become quite the novel.

And, as incredible as the accomplishments of women in zero-gravity have been, it would be remiss not to mention those who have revolutionized space exploration from right on Earth. Barbara Paulson was one of the first female scientists to work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in 1948 and Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan were the female “computers” and first African American managers at NASA Langley who helped get John Glenn to space in 1962. 

STS-47 Mission Specialist Mae Jemison floating in the Science Module aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in Sept. 1992.  (Image credit: NASA)

Fast-forward to the 2000s and, in 2011, you have Carol Craig becoming the first female founder and owner of a space-based corporation to go public, and, in 2021, Kamala Harris becoming the first female Vice President, who also chairs the National Space Council. Furthermore, while firsts are important, tons of women across the world continue to make names for themselves and pave scientific legacies of their own. That includes the young women choosing to go into space-related careers, for example, improving the statistics and presence of women in those industries. It also includes the women who serve our country in the United States Space Force.

And so, with Women’s History Month coming to a close, we’ve decided to put together a compilation of lovely thoughts from more than 50 women space leaders. They range from astronauts to CEOs and from government officials to private entrepreneurs. 

Space.com reached out to the following women leaders in space exploration to see if they’d share a snippet of advice, inspiration or general thoughts about their journey to where they are. 

Inspiration4 mission pilot Sian Proctor  (Image credit: SpaceX)

“Shrinking yourself won’t make the table any bigger. Take your seat and make it known you’re there. Chances are, you’re wanted there. Quit playing hide-and-seek with your authentic self. It’s time to step into the spotlight and show the world what you’re made of.”

“Women’s History Month serves as a time to reflect on progress, but to also look ahead at the challenges still to overcome. The landscape is changing, but it will only continue to do so if we keep changing it. Keep building networks of women to support each other!”

Spaceflight participant Anousheh Ansari, center, with her Expedition 13 and 14 crew mates during a press conference.   (Image credit: NASA)

“I’m optimistic about the future because I’ve seen how much can change in a single generation. When my mother was growing up, women weren’t eligible to become astronauts in the US — one single generation later, she watched her daughter fly to space and her granddaughter take it for granted. My own daughter thinks that working in space is just what girls do, and knows not even the sky is a limit.”

“I’m so grateful to those first women in the space industry for trailblazing a path for us. As a woman of color, I’m very aware of my responsibility to continue that journey and thankful that my team will help protect future generations with cutting-edge space technologies.” 

“When my women colleagues and friends think they are being too brazen or aggressive by taking a specific action, I ask them to consider if a man would hesitate. It usually means they should go forward.” 

“I believe that Space Inspires! And what it inspires us to do can be very personal and unique to each individual. Maybe it inspires you to dream bigger, or to reach for the stars, or be more creative, or simply pause and take a moment to look up at the stars…whatever it inspires YOU to do — embrace that!” 

“More than one of the boys, I see you as the girl they want to follow … choose to be your best self, embrace how special you are and go for it.” 

“Let’s make our perspectives known, enriching science, our environment and peers with a diversity of ideas. Let’s open new doors for creative solutions and advocate for a more inclusive environment for everyone. Let’s take on leadership roles and contribute while doing what we like, inspiring more females to join STEM areas, creating a cycle of inspiration and empowerment for future generations.” 

“If you have a dream, don’t bother wondering if you can make it but focus on how to make it happen.” 

“By accepting our role as crewmates, not passengers, we have the power to create a future for all life on Earth that’s as beautiful as it looks from space.” 

“Surround yourself with those driven by mission, fueled by purpose, steadfast in integrity, and fortified with grit, and you’ll find yourself not only surpassing your own dreams but also setting waypoints and illuminating the journey for others to find their North Star.” 

Maria Demaree, Vice President and General Manager – National Security Space, Lockheed Martin 

“Do not wait for a title, permission, or direction … lead from where you are.” 

“As women in aerospace, we are tasked with tackling not one but two gravity wells: Earth’s, and that of succeeding in a male-dominated industry. It’s on us to remember that this is our superpower!” 

Julie Napier Zoller, Head of Global Regulatory Affairs-Project Kuiper, Amazon 

“You will only discover the extent of your gifts if you try new things, tackle big challenges, and listen to people who see your potential.” 

“Relentless optimism isn’t foolish — it’s courageous. Remember to let hope be your guide as you bravely fight to create an equitable future for all.” 

“The most important thing we can do as female leaders in the workplace is to set an example to all women that fostering each other’s innovation is the primary drive of success.” 

“There is no black or white, there is only Earthlight and that’s a rainbow of colors worth celebrating. So let your Earthlight shine by sharing your authentic self with the world and beyond!” 

“Your career is a full-contact sport. Say yes to opportunities, do your homework, always follow through, and don’t get discouraged when the path takes you in unexpected directions with unavoidable setbacks. If you can learn to be resilient, you will be successful.”

“Women have been a driving force of space exploration since the beginning, even if sometimes hidden. Today, we are front and center, creating a next generation space industry that welcomes diversity of thought and background, that will without a doubt, transform humanity. We are leading organizations, engineering the once impossible, telling the story, crunching the numbers, and selling the future. Moon? Mars? Beyond? Women know how to get it done.” 

Catie Hague, Vice President Strategic Communications, Axiom Space 

“To my fellow Women of Words during this Women’s History Month – you have an indispensable role in shaping the narrative of space exploration. Through the careful crafting of communication and the capture of incredible imagery, you breathe life into human endeavors that only a select few have known. You are the storytellers, the authors of historic achievements, ensuring that the silence of space echoes tales of courage, failure, success, innovation, and discovery. Space is, unequivocally, your truth to tell. Tell it well … for generations to come.” 

“We need the brilliance and innovation of *all* people to face today’s challenges and to succeed at our extraordinary ambitions. Be part of the solution!” 

“In space exploration, collaboration across disciplines and cultures is essential. Women in leadership roles exemplify this unity, bridging gaps and building partnerships that enhance our global efforts to reach new frontiers and solve complex challenges.” 

“Choose your journey, change your journey, own your journey, but above all else enjoy your journey.” 

Shelli Brunswick, CEO & Founder, SB Global LLC & BIED Society Executive Director, Center for International Space Policy 

“Dream with boldness, act with courage, and paint the future on the cosmic canvas! Your imagination is the only brushstroke that matters. Reach for the stars, for within you lies the spark that ignites humanity’s next great adventure!”” 

“There is no such thing as a small story because only you, the owner, have a thorough understanding of it and the skills necessary to quantify it. Your story is unique to you, originates from the heart, and portrays the tenacious warrior inside.” 

“Your brilliance knows no bounds! Break barriers, defy expectations, and let your impact speak for itself. You are the architect of your destiny so continue to be remarkable in every orbit of your journey.” 

“Believe in yourself, set your goals, and viciously prioritize to achieve them. You are your only limit.” 

“You don’t have to be a scientist to work in the space industry. Follow whatever your heart tells you you’re interested in, and success will follow. Just do it!” 

“Be relentless in delivering results with excellence.  Be relentless in solving problems … exhaust your resources.  Be relentless in pursuing your goals.  Be relentless in building and fostering a cohesive and effective team.  Be relentless in personal pursuits such as physical fitness, well-being, family, etc.” 

“In space, silence speaks volumes, but our actions resonate louder. Women’s History Month, let’s be the comet that disrupts the cosmos: Fearless, blazing, unstoppable. Together, we are not just reaching for the stars; we are redefining what the universe sees as possible. To the women shaping the future: our time is now.” 

Pam Sullivan, Director, Office of Geostationary Earth Orbit Observations, NOAA 

“I feel fortunate to be in the second generation of women in aerospace. I had the advantage of seeing many women trailblazers in the industry, becoming project managers, program scientists, even the head of NOAA, and showing my generation what was possible and how to do it while still being yourself.” 

“It’s a reflection of the hard work, inner strength, compassion, diligence, passion, perseverance, resilience and support of one another, which led to some of the most incredible scientific and medical discoveries of all time, and paved the way for female scientists like me to have the education and careers we have now.” 

“It turns out there is an “I” in “team” …  Every individual brings a unique set of strengths and perspectives to the mission; be open enough to see it!” 

“When you break the glass ceiling, the falling glass cuts you first, the deepest. But you’re easing the struggle and paving the path forward for others that follow.” 

“Sophie Adenot, the French spationaut is currently training hard to fly to space on board the International Space Station in the coming years … This is so inspiring! The pioneer women in space have shown us that not even the sky is the limit! Girls, whatever your dreams are, work hard, be kind and you will reach the stars!” 

“Do the work, spread the word.” 

“This Women’s History Month, we not only look around our own facilities with awe at the women leaders at Space Perspective, but also reflect on the remarkable women who came before us — not to mention organizations like Space Prize Foundation, Women in Aerospace, and Space4Women, who are promoting gender equality in space. All of us are bound by a commitment to a future built on collaboration, inclusivity, and the indomitable spirit of exploration.”

“Be courageous enough to deeply understand yourself, your convictions, and your worth so that you can be fearless enough to blaze trails.” 

“Coming into the space field I was impressed with how welcoming and supportive the community was to young professionals. I have been fortunate enough to find excellent mentors and guides that have supported me in my professional endeavors and personally. As I find myself in a place where I can open doors for folks, I am making a conscious effort to open opportunities for young women and those from minority backgrounds that may have a tougher time making the right connections to break into space. Space is for all, and I hope to look around in 30 years as an established leader in the space community and be surrounded by diverse thought, people, and talent.” 

“Never hesitate to take on a leadership role just because you aren’t an expert in every single piece of the job. No CEO has held every job at a company. Use your specialized knowledge and expand to learn the rest!” 

STS-92 Pilot NASA astronaut Pamela A. Melroy shortly after reaching orbit in 2000. (Image credit: NASA)

“A life worth living is never about all the ‘what ifs’ in your head – it is about all the times you said ‘why the hell not?’ and you made your magic happen, despite everyone telling you ‘that’s too difficult’. Because it is indeed ‘difficult’ for MOST people, and that’s none of your business” 

“Your gift to the industry is the unique perspective you have to offer. Your ideas are an essential contribution so have the confidence to share! Your voice and opinion can promote learning, further innovation, and elevate others and yourself.” 

“True visionaries know not everyone will understand their dreams at first. Let skepticism ignite your fire. Stay on your path, work hard on your vision, and watch doubters become your most avid supporters.” 

“Breaking barriers in space requires relentless pursuit, undeterred by setbacks. We must forge paths where none exist, inspiring others to follow, shaping a future where women thrive beyond the bounds of gravity. The beautiful thing about the laws of science is that they do not discriminate against anyone that chooses to apply them — whether a man or a woman.” 

“Embrace your quirks, amplify your weirdness, and let your unique sparkle illuminate the path for those who dare to be different. In a world of ordinary, be unapologetically extraordinary, paving the way for the wonderfully weird souls of tomorrow. Your authenticity is your superpower. Let us blaze trails, shatter ceilings, and build bridges for those who follow, lighting the way with courage, compassion, and unwavering determination. Step into uncertainty, defy gravity, and let your vision soar beyond the stars, not just to explore, but to pioneer and transform.” 

Kathryn Lueders, Starbase General Manager, SpaceX and Former Associate Administrator, NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate 

“You are only as good as the people that work for you. Once you recognize that, you invest in them and then they in you, and the growth cycle begins.” 

“Empowered by the trailblazers before us, it’s our responsibility to shape a brighter future for the next generation.” 

“Tomorrow.io is revolutionizing weather forecasting with our first-of-its-kind satellite constellation, set to democratize access to global weather data. It takes a diverse team to solve the world’s biggest challenges, and I’m honored to be part of a mission fueled by such an innovative and diverse group of people, including many strong women. The next frontier is female, and I’m thrilled to be part of a company leading the way.” 

“Fall in love with the journey in pursuit of your passion and surround yourself with great people – a team ignited with a shared vision can accomplish so much more than an individual, they can change the world.” 

“Women’s History Month provides a platform to celebrate and share the stories of women who have triumphed despite doubts, adversity, and obstacles while leading the way for change and chartering a path for generations to come. By recognizing women’s accomplishments, it inspires women, young and old, to pursue your dreams with passion and grandiose courage. The biggest challenge, especially early in my career, was overcoming preconceived notions by others based on either gender or race bias. There will be times where you will be the ‘only.’ That’s when you let your work speak for you and those notions will swiftly be dispelled.” 

“Our words create WONDER!  I believe it is every educator’s DUTY to speak the most positive of prophecies over the children who come into our purview. You see we have the power to instill WONDER and encourage our students to stand in their inherent magnificence.” 

“Motivation, perseverance, curiosity, and desire is the secret magic sauce. You are capable of extraordinary things. Trust in yourself, embrace challenges as opportunities for growth, and strive to become the best version of yourself.” 

Megan Bennett, SLD Electrical Design Engineer II – Lunar Transportation, Blue Origin 

Susanne Hake, General Manager, USG, Maxar Intelligence 

“You might be the first woman at the table but don’t let yourself be the last. Empower others to join and lift them up as you climb.” 

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