“The Extraordinary Life of Helen Sharman: Britain’s First Astronaut” 

 March 28, 2023

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Have you ever dreamed of traveling to space? Did you know that the first British astronaut was a woman named Helen Sharman? What were her experiences like? Helen Sharman’s journey to becoming an astronaut was not easy, but she did not give up. In this blog post, we will delve into the extraordinary life of Britain’s first astronaut, Helen Sharman.

Early Life and Education

Helen Sharman was born on May 30, 1963, in Sheffield, England. From an early age, she was determined to pursue her interests in science. She went on to study chemistry at the University of Sheffield, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1984. After that, she obtained a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Birkbeck College, London, in 1987.

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How She Became an Astronaut

In 1989, Helen Sharman saw an advertisement asking for applicants to become Britain’s first astronaut and applied without hesitation. She was among the final two candidates selected for the mission in 1991. The selection process was rigorous, requiring her to stay in a tank of water for extended periods, undertake strenuous physical exercises, and undergo numerous psychological tests. Despite the challenges, she persevered and was chosen to join the Russian space program.

Training for the Mission

In 1991, Helen Sharman spent almost a year training in Russia’s space program to prepare for her mission. She learned technical skills like spacewalking and operating the spacecraft and underwent mental preparation to face the isolation and confinement of a space mission. She practiced her Russian language skills to communicate with her Russian team members while on the mission.

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The Mission to Space

On May 18, 1991, Helen Sharman became the first British astronaut to launch into space when she boarded the Soviet Soyuz spacecraft called Soyuz TM-12. She spent eight days onboard, traveling over 2.5 million kilometers during her mission, and orbiting Earth almost 130 times. She conducted experiments during her time on the Mir space station, including a study of crystal growth.

Media and Public Reception

Helen Sharman’s exploits in space drew significant media attention, making her a national hero in Britain. The public appreciated her achievement in becoming the first Briton in space, and she was celebrated with parades and ceremonies upon her return.

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Life After Her Space Mission

After completing her space mission, Helen Sharman continued to work as a scientist. She also became a speaker and educator, sharing her experiences and promoting science education among young people. She later served as the Operations Manager for the chemistry department at the University of Nottingham, where she is still employed as a technical manager.


1. How old was Helen Sharman when she went to space?
Helen Sharman was 28 years old when she went to space.

2. Did Helen Sharman speak Russian before her mission?
No, she had to learn it during her training for the mission.

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3. How long was Helen Sharman’s space mission?
Helen Sharman’s space mission lasted eight days.

4. Did Helen Sharman have any experience in spacewalking before her mission?
No, she learned spacewalking during her training for the mission.

5. What experiments did Helen Sharman conduct during her mission?
She conducted experiments on crystal growth and how metals react under microgravity conditions.

6. What did Helen Sharman do after her space mission?
She continued working as a scientist and became an educator, promoting science education among young people.

7. What is Helen Sharman doing now?
She currently works as a technical manager and operations manager for the chemistry department at the University of Nottingham.

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Helen Sharman’s journey to become Britain’s first astronaut was an extraordinary accomplishment. Her passion for science and determination to succeed led her to space. Her mission inspired generations and elevated her position as a role model for numerous young people. Sharman’s legacy will continue to inspire and encourage aspiring astronaut/ scientists worldwide.

If you are interested in science and space, there are many opportunities for you to learn more and explore your interests. Who knows? Maybe one day, you will be standing on the space station, looking down at our beautiful planet earth!

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