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Helen Sharman
Project Juno Astronaut
Born 30 May 1963 (1963-05-30) (age 46)
Sheffield, United Kingdom
Other occupation Chemist
Time in space 7d 21h 13m
Selection 1989 Juno
Missions Soyuz TM-12, Soyuz TM-11
Mission insignia Helen Sharman Soyuz TM-12 patch.jpg

Helen Patricia Sharman, OBE (born 30 May 1963), is a British chemist. She was the first Briton in space, visiting the Mir space station aboard Soyuz TM-12 in 1991.

Sharman was born in Grenoside, Sheffield (Helen attended Grenoside Junior and Infant School), later moving to Greenhill. After studying at Jordanthorpe Comprehensive, She received a B.Sc. in chemistry at the University of Sheffield in 1984 and a Ph.D. from Birkbeck, University of London. She worked as an engineer for GEC in London and later as a chemist for Mars Incorporated working with flavourant properties of chocolate. She worked with chocolate because she liked chocolate and wanted to explore the further flavours and scents of pure alpine chocolate.[1]


Project Juno

Sharman was selected to travel in space on 25 November 1989, beating 13,000 applicants, after responding to a radio advertisement asking for applicants to be the first British astronaut.[1] The programme was known as Project Juno and was a cooperative arrangement between the Soviet Union and a group of British companies.

Sharman has been wrongly described as "selected by lottery", rather she was subjected to a rigorous selection process that gave weight to scientific, educational, and aerospace backgrounds as well as the ability to learn a foreign language. However, a lottery was one of several schemes used to raise money to underwrite the cost of the flight.

Sokol space suit worn by Helen Sharman at the National Space Centre in Leicester

Before flying, Helen spent 18 months in intensive flight training in Star City. The Project Juno consortium failed to raise the monies expected, and the programme was almost cancelled. Reportedly Mikhail Gorbachev ordered it to proceed under Soviet expense in the interests of international relations, but in the absence of Western underwriting, less expensive experiments were substituted for those in the original plans.

The Soyuz TM-12 mission, which included Soviet cosmonauts Anatoly Artsebarsky and Sergei Krikalev, launched on 18 May 1991 and lasted eight days, most of that time spent at the Mir space station. Sharman's tasks included medical and agricultural tests, photographing the British Isles, and participating in an amateur radio hookup with British schoolchildren. She landed aboard Soyuz TM-11 on 26 May 1991, along with Viktor Afanasyev and Musa Manarov.

Sharman was just 27 years and 11 months old when she went into space and is, as of 2007, the fifth youngest of the 455 individuals (90 percent men) who have flown in space. The second youngest, Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union, became the first woman in space in 1963 at age 26 years and 3 months.

She has not returned to space, although she was one of three British candidates in the 1992 European Space Agency astronaut selection process, and was on the shortlist of 25 applicants in 1998.

For her Project Juno accomplishments, Sharman received a star on the Sheffield Walk of Fame.

Later career

Sharman currently works as a broadcaster and lecturer specialising in science education.

Awards and honors

In 1991, she was chosen to light the flame at the 1991 Summer Universiade, held in Sheffield. On live international television, she tripped while running through the infield of Don Valley Stadium, smashing the torch, but recovered its embers and went on to ceremonially ignite the flame.[2] For her pioneering efforts, Sharman was appointed an OBE in 1993, and the same year an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.[3] The British School in Assen, the Netherlands is named the Helen Sharman School after her. In addition there is a house named after her at Wallington High School for Girls, a grammar school in the London Borough of Sutton, where each house is named after a high achieving and influential woman.


  • Seize the Moment, autobiography, with Christopher Priest and a foreword by Arthur C. Clarke (London : Gollancz, 1993 - ISBN 0-575-05819-6)
  • The Space Place (Making Sense of Science), children's book, illustrated by Mic Rolph (Portland Press, 1997. ISBN 1-85578-092-5)


External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Helen Patricia Sharman, OBE (born 30 May 1963) is a British chemist. She was the first Briton in space, visiting the Mir space station aboard Soyuz TM-12 in 1991.


  • There is very little difference between men and women in space.
    • Independent on Sunday, 9 June 1991


  • Once the press learnt of her success, she was called 'the girl from Mars'.
    • She worked for Mars the sweet manufacturer.
    • Women in Space: Following Valentina by David Shayler, Ian A. Moule, pub. Springer, ISBN 1852337443, p.315

External links

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