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NASA Appoints First Female Chief of the Human Spaceflight Program

As head of NASA's human spaceflight program, Kathy Lueders will oversee the Artemis program which plans to land a woman on the moon in 2024.

Kathy Lueders, the NASA official who oversaw the historic SpaceX astronaut launch last month, has been named the new head of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate! In this role, Lueders will lead all of NASA's human spaceflight programs, including the Artemis moon program which plans to land the first woman on the moon in 2024. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine praised her appointment in a statement, observing: "Kathy gives us the extraordinary experience and passion we need to continue to move forward with Artemis... and achieve the ambitious goals we’ve been given."

When Lueders, who has been working at NASA since 1992, was an undergraduate at University of New Mexico, her initial interests were in finance and she had dreams of working on Wall Street. In her senior year, however, she discovered a love of engineering and earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in industrial engineering from New Mexico State University.

In 1992, Lueders began working with NASA at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico where she was only the second woman to work at testing facility.  There, she managed the Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System and Reaction Control Systems Depot. She went on to work at NASA's International Space Station (ISS) program where she helped coordinate robotic cargo shipments to the ISS as a transportation integration manager.

Since 2014, she had led NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which involves partnering with private businesses to develop craft that can transport astronauts, a project that became increasingly important when the space shuttles were retired in 2011. Since then, American astronauts have been dependent on Russian spacecraft to reach the ISS. NASA envisioned commercial craft becoming the new transportation method for American astronauts, as well as a key element of future planned space missions to the Moon, Mars, and potentially even further.

As the Commercial Crew Manager, Lueders oversaw NASA grants to organizations like Boeing and SpaceX, and ensured that proposed craft would meet all of NASA's safety and certification requirements. Last month, Lueders oversaw SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft flight, which took astronauts Robert L. Behnken and Douglas G. Hurley to the space station and marked the return of human spaceflight to the U.S. for the first time in a decade. Before the launch, Lueders praised the commercial partners who have been working on developing NASA's next generation of space flight technology. "You can never sell this NASA and SpaceX team short," she declared. "They’ve accomplished miracles for me."

As the new director of the human spaceflight office, Lueders will be at the forefront of NASA's plans for crewed missions beyond Earth's orbit, which include the Artemis mission, a Mars mission to take place in the 2030s, and potentially the development of an off-Earth economy that includes more frequent human travel into space. "We have our sights set on the Moon and even deeper into space," Bridenstone asserted, "and Kathy is going to help lead us there."

Books About Space-Loving Mighty Girls and Women

Baby Astronaut

Baby Astronaut

Written by: Dr. Laura Gehl
Illustrated by: Daniel Wiseman
Recommended Age: 1 to 3

This pigtailed Baby Astronaut is ready for liftoff! She and her crew put on space suits and helmets before they blast off. Once she's in orbit, she'll explain why astronauts float (and even how they sleep.) Then, she'll conduct experiments: Can ants live in space? Yes! Can plants grow in space? Yes! This adorable board book from the Baby Scientist series, which also includes the book Baby Botanist, is perfect for curious babies and toddlers.

To The Stars!

The First American Woman to Walk In Space

To The Stars!

The First American Woman to Walk In Space

Recommended Age: 5 - 9

When Kathy Sullivan was growing up, she hated the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" — because whenever she named an exciting job, people told her it wasn't for girls. But she was determined to change that, so when she was a teenager, she learned to fly a plane, and in 1978 she became one of the first women to be selected by NASA. And when she finally got to space in 1984, she made her mark as the first American woman to perform a spacewalk. This inspiring story ends with a note from Sullivan and capsule biographies of other American women space pioneers. It's perfect for budding astronauts, or for anyone who refuses to believe something "isn't for girls."

The Astronaut With A Song For The Stars: The Story of Dr. Ellen Ochoa

The Astronaut With A Song For The Stars: The Story of Dr. Ellen Ochoa

Written by: Julia Finley Mosca
Illustrated by: Daniel Rieley
Recommended Age: 5 - 9

Ellen Ochoa dreamed of playing her flute professionally — until she discovered engineering in college and was immediately hooked. People doubted whether she could succeed: a girl from an immigrant family wasn't the right sort of person to become a scientist, they thought. She refused to believe them, and not only did she achieve her career in science, but she even became a NASA astronaut. And when she flew into outer space, her flute came with her, so she could play a song for the stars! This appealing biography from the Amazing Scientists series is a colorful tribute to this daring scientist and musician.

Galaxy Girls: 50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space

Galaxy Girls: 50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space

Written by: Libby Jackson
Recommended Age: 7 - 12

This gorgeously illustrated collected biography honors inspirational women who helped fuel some of the greatest achievements in space exploration from the nineteenth century to today! Galaxy Girls pays tribute to fifty pioneering women past and present, from mathematicians to engineers to test pilots to astronauts. Each capsule biography is paired with striking full-page original artwork from the students of the London College of Communication. Perfect for inspiring the space leaders of tomorrow, this stunning book gives this band of heroic sisters and their remarkable and often little known scientific achievements long overdue recognition.

Gutsy Girls Go For Science: Astronauts

Gutsy Girls Go For Science: Astronauts

Written by: Alicia Klepeis
Illustrated by: Hui Li
Recommended Age: 8 - 11

Imagine blasting off into outer space with this book that profiles famous female astronauts — and encourages you to try hands-on STEM activities related to space exploration! The stories of Bonnie Dunbar, Sally Ride, Mae Jemison, Sunita Williams, and Serena Auñón-Chancellor soar in this volume, while the included projects like designing and building space rovers and creating a model of the International Space Station develop critical thinking skills. This full-color book from the Gutsy Girls Go For Science series is sure to make her look at the night sky in a whole new way.

Sally Ride

A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman in Space

Sally Ride

A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman in Space

Written by: Tam O'Shaughnessy
Recommended Age: 9 - 12

This photobiography of the first American woman in space gives a unique peek at the life of Sally Ride! Ride was a competitive tennis player, a book lover, and — believe it or not — an underachiever (at least according to her high school classmates.) After she made history as an astronaut, she also served as an advocate for space exploration and girls and women in science. This book written by Ride's partner Tam O'Shaughnessy, which is full of both personal and media photographs and illuminating and intimate anecdotes, provides a revealing look at this pioneer of space travel.

Women In Space: 23 Stories of First Flights, Scientific Missions, and Gravity-Breaking Adventures

Women In Space: 23 Stories of First Flights, Scientific Missions, and Gravity-Breaking Adventures

Written by: Karen Bush Gibson
Recommended Age: 12 and up

There are few figures as inspiring as an astronaut: not only are they daring adventurers, they're also intelligent, dedicated scientists! In this book from the Women of Action series, kids will read about trailblazing women from ten different countries who dreamed of traveling to space. Including important figures like the Mercury 13, Valentina Tereshkova, Sally Ride, Mae Jemison, Chiaki Mukai, Kalpana Chawla, and many more, this book shares the obstacles they faced, the wonders they saw, and the influence they've made on the world. For any science-lover or would-be space traveler, this book is full of inspiration.

Astronaut Doll

Astronaut Doll

Manufacturer: Mattel
Recommended Age: 3 - 7

Set your sights on space with this astronaut doll from the Barbie Careers line! In honor of Barbie's 60th anniversary, they're reproducing some of the over 200 careers Barbie has filled. This astronaut doll comes in a spacesuit printed with all the zippers, pockets, and hoses that a real astronaut has, as well as white gloves, boots, and helmet. She's sure to inspire your Mighty Girl to reach for the stars!

Amazon.com.au

Sally Ride Inspiring Women Doll

Sally Ride Inspiring Women Doll

Manufacturer: MATTEL
Recommended Age: 6 and up

Budding astronauts everywhere look up to Sally Ride, the first American woman in space — and now they can add this doll from the Inspiring Women line to their toy box or display shelf! This doll is modeled on Ride's appearance and includes authentic details on her iconic blue NASA spacesuit, as well as a helmet and a headset for communicating with Mission Control. The set includes a doll, a stand, and a Certificate of Authenticity.

Amazon.com.au

Astronaut Costume Set

Astronaut Costume Set

Manufacturer: Melissa & Doug
Recommended Age: 3 - 6

Get ready to blast off with this terrific astronaut dress-up set from Melissa and Doug! Would-be astronauts will love this set, which includes a spacesuit, a helmet, gloves, and a customizable name tag. This beautifully designed role-play set is made of top-quality materials and built to last through countless adventures and year-round imaginative play.

Amazon.com.au

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