Parliament Hill schoolgirls team up with Science Museum to uncover little-told history of female astronauts

European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti on the International Space Station

European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti on the International Space Station - Credit: Archant

Schoolgirls are to transform history into herstory by joining forces with a world-renowned museum to shine a spotlight on the little-told achievements of female astronauts.

Valentina Tereshkova, the world's first woman cosmonaut. Picture: PA

Valentina Tereshkova, the world's first woman cosmonaut. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

While the likes of Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Yuri Gagarin are household names, their female counterparts are often only footnotes in the history of space travel.

Pupils at all-girls Parliament Hill School in Highgate Road, near Parliament Hill Fields, are now to put the record straight by teaming up with the Science Museum and other academic bodies for a £48,000 research project into the history of female astronauts.

Associate headteacher Sarah Creasey said: “We are delighted to be hosting this exciting project looking at the history of women astronauts.”

She added: “We are sure this will be a unique and enriching project for our students and we very much look forward to seeing the results of their work this summer.”

The youngsters will interview women working in the space programme and in the field of space science, as well as exploring the Science Museum’s space collection.

They will also dive into the archives at the Women’s Library in Holborn to uncover the level of discrimination against women in the early days of the American space programme and how it was eventually overcome.

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Soviet Union cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first women to fly into space in 1963 – but it was for another 20 years that the US sent its first female astronaut into orbit.

Helen Sharman was the first British astronaut to launch into space, while Samantha Cristoforetti, who is currently serving on the International Space Station, is the first ever Italian female space traveller.

To date, 60 women have flown into space compared with more than 400 men.

The project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, will culminate in multi-media theatrical performances staged with the help of Archway-based performing arts company Scarabeus Theatre.

Their research will also be documented on a website, which will provide schools across the country with invaluable teaching resources.

Daniela Essart, artistic director of Scarabeus Theatre, said: “This project will allow the students to explore a side of history which is relatively unknown – the achievements of women who became part of the space exploration programme and furthered human knowledge. “I am delighted to be delving into this hidden history with the students at Parliament Hill School, and look forward to taking them on a journey of discovery and giving them the opportunity to fly to the moon.”

The project, called The Dark Side of the Moon, is a partnership between the school, the Science Museum, Kingston University, the Women’s Library and Scarabeus Theatre.