In July 2019, the United States celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Taught in school's across the country, and depicted repeatedly in books, films, and television shows, the moon landing in 1969 — in which astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to step foot on the moon, taking "one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind" — is one of the most iconic moments in world history. Since the late '60s, the NASA program has continued to make history, with missions like the Mars Exploration Rover ensuring continued interest in the men and women who explore the unknown Final Frontier.
But once you've gotten your fill reading all about Apollo 11 and other major space missions, you might find that you want to keep those galaxy-filled stoties on deck — especially stories about women, who are so often left out of important historical moments. This list of 10 books about women in space contains both fiction and nonfiction picks, with classic must-reads and newer books among them. Whether you want an edge-of-your-seat sci-fi novel set in space, or you want to learn more about the real-life women who have made space their careers, there's something on the list for you:
'The Calculating Stars' by c Kowal
In Mary Robinette Kowal's novel, a meteorite falls to Earth in 1952 and obliterates the east coast of the U.S., setting off a climate cataclysm that will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity. In the accelerated effort to colonize space, Elma York is driven to become the first Lady Astronaut. But she must fight societal conventions first.
'Hidden Figures' by Margot Lee Shetterly
No reading list about women in space would be complete without Hidden Figures, the story of the African-American women who worked as "Human Computers," calculating the flight paths that would enable NASA's most historic achievements.
'The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet' by Becky Chambers
This novel follows Rosemary Harper, a crew member on the aging Wayfarer. Life aboard the ship is chaotic and crazy — exactly what Rosemary wants. But it’s also about to get extremely dangerous, because the crew has just been offered the job of a lifetime: Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet.
'The Glass Universe' by Dava Sobel
In The Glass Universe, Dava Sobel explores the stories of The Harvard College Observatory's women "human computers," who interpreted the observations made via telescope by their male counterparts each night. One of these women was Dr. Cecilia Helena Payne-Gaposchkin, who in 1956 became the first ever woman professor of astronomy at Harvard.
'Illuminae' by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff's young adult novel, written in emails, video scripts and other documents, follows Kady and Ezra after they are forced to evacuate their planet in a fleet of spaceships. Unfortunately, that's just the beginning of their problems, because their fleets' A.I. system has been compromised.
'Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space' by Lynn Sherr
This biography of Sally Ride, who was the first American woman to travel to space in 1983, dives into both Ride's work and her closely guarded personal life. Lynn Sherr drew from Ride's diaries, files, and letters as well as accounts from her family, friends and colleagues for this in-depth look at the historical figure.
'The Wanderers' by Meg Howrey
Meg Howrey's novel follows Helen Kane, Yoshi Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov on their mission to prove they’re the perfect crew for mankind's first human walk on Mars. How will they do it? By spending 17 months in the most realistic simulation every created — testing their endurance mentally and physically.
'Binti' by Nnedi Okorafor
In Nnedi Okorafor's sci-fi fantasy epic, Binti is the first of the Himba people to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept her place, she must travel into a world at war with an alien race, the Meduse, who have become the stuff of nightmares.
'‘The Mercury 13’ by Martha Ackmann
Martha Ackmann's book explores the true story of a group of women who, in 1961, underwent secret testing in the hopes of becoming America’s first female astronauts. The author speaks extensively to these women about being dismissed by the boys' club at NASA, watching Russia's female astronauts beat them to space, and the remarkable lives they led after.