On this Day… October 11th

Fiona Carlson, News Editor

Kathryn Sullivan became the first American woman to walk in space.

On October 11th, 1984, Kathryn Sullivan performed a three and a half hour space walk. The purpose of this expedition was to prove that a satellite could be refueled in orbit. Following this excursion, Sullivan participated in a total of two more space missions, including the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990. She left NASA in 1993.

Despite retiring from space travel, Sullivan’s career was far from over. After leaving NASA, she took a job as the chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Following that, in 2006, Sullivan became the director of the Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy. Finally, in 2011, President Obama made her the assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction and deputy administrator of NOAA. She was confirmed by the Senate later that year. 

Despite her many years of groundbreaking actions and experiences, Kathryn’s journey is still not over. Just this past year, in June of 2020, Sullivan became the first woman to ever dive to the deepest spot in the ocean, a full thirty-six years after her walk in space. This deep spot, referred to as the Challenger Deep, is located off the coast of Guam, and is almost seven miles below the ocean’s surface. Sullivan was sixty-eight years old when she made the trip.

Throughout her now seventy years of life, Kathryn 

Sullivan has continued to push the boundaries of what society says women can do. In 1991, she won the Haley Space Flight Award, and, more recently, in 2014, she was honored on the Time 100 list. From the deepest depths of the sea, to thousands of miles into space, Kathryn Sullivan has continuously shown what not only women, but anyone with a dream, can do, if they just put their minds to it.