Growing up as a nerd, Anna Lee Fisher secretly dreamt of becoming an astronaut. She was known to be shy and quiet hence many were surprised when she was selected as one of the first female astronauts at NASA in 1978. Not just that she was among the first six women but she was the first mother ever to travel to space. ‘The cosmic mother’ as some may refer to her.
She received her degree in chemistry and medicine at UCLA and later specialized at emergency medicine in the late 1970s. By 1979 she had completed her training year and became eligible as a mission specialist astronaut. During the candidate year the six women learned all about shuttles, how they are operating, orbital mechanics, space in general and developed special skills, such as how to walk in the special astronaut suit or how to strengthen staples without being able to see any of it. Anna’s most important tasks included walking underwater in heavy suits simulating space environment and testing the shuttle’s ‘’robotic arms’’ capability. Later on, she completed many different assignments; also providing work assistance at the health maintenance facilities.
“I caught a wave, like a surfer, at the right moment in history when social attitudes were changing and just to happen to come along at the right time, to where the doors were opening for women’’ – she recalls her intentions and memories. She described that she immediately felt the belonging.
Anna Lee Fisher was assigned to her flight two weeks before she delivered her oldest daughter, Kristin. Kristin was born on Friday, yet Anna attended the Monday morning meeting. She was committed and unstoppable. Taking care of Kristin and going to trainings at the same time was challenging, but ‘the space mom’ received numerous help, thus she knew that her daughter is in good hands. Seeing Kristin before the launch gave her courage and calmness, knowing that everything was going to be all right.
She went to space as the crew member of Discovery, in 1984. As the flight engineer, she trained together with the commander and the pilot. She had to watch the airspeed altitude engines, but the mission also required the deployment of two satellites and the recovering of two other. Anna was the arm operator and in charge of retrieving and deploying the satellites.
Upon the completion of the space flight, Anna Lee Fisher had logged a total of 192 hours in space.
She gave birth to her second child, Kate, in 1988. When she returned to NASA in 1996 she was assigned to the Operation Planning Branch to work on procedure and training matters that supported the International Space Station.
Anna Lee Fisher retired from NASA in 2017.
Written by: Rebeka Oláh
Rebeka Oláh is the Board Member for Voyager Space Outreach for writing Blog posts on STEM/Space Topics.