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Helen Sharman

Helen Sharman
Project Juno astronaut
Nationality British
Born (1963-05-30) 30 May 1963
Sheffield, England
Other occupation
University of Sheffield, BSc 1984
Birkbeck, University of London, Ph.D.
Time in space
7d 21h 13m
Selection 1989 Juno
Missions Soyuz TM-12 / Soyuz TM-11
Mission insignia

Helen Patricia Sharman OBE FRSC (born 30 May 1963), is a British chemist who became the first Briton in space and the first woman to visit the Mir space station in 1991.

Sharman was born in Grenoside, Sheffield (where she attended Grenoside Junior and Infant School), later moving to Greenhill. After studying at Jordanthorpe Comprehensive, she received a BSc in chemistry at the University of Sheffield in 1984 and a PhD from Birkbeck, University of London. She worked as a research and development technologist for GEC in London and later as a chemist for Mars Incorporated dealing with flavourant properties of chocolate.[1] She worked with chocolate because she liked chocolate and wanted to explore the further flavours and scents of pure alpine chocolate.[2]


  • Project Juno 1
  • Later career 2
  • Awards and honours 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Project Juno

After responding to a radio advertisement asking for applicants to be the first British astronaut, Sharman was selected for the mission live on ITV, on 25 November 1989, ahead of nearly 13,000 other applicants.[2][3][4] 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". 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.[5] A lottery was one of several schemes used to raise money to underwrite the cost of the flight.

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

Before flying, Sharman 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[6] and lasted eight days, most of that time spent at the Mir space station. Sharman's tasks included medical and agricultural tests,[7] photographing the British Isles, and participating in an unlicenced 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, making her (as of 2015) the sixth youngest of the 545 individuals who have flown in space. The second youngest, Valentina Tereshkova, became the first woman in space in 1963 at the age of 26 years and 3 months.

Sharman 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

Following her mission to Mir, Sharman wrote an auto-biography, Seize the Moment.[8] In 1997 she published a children's book, The Space Place.[9] She has presented radio and television programmes including for BBC Schools.[10] Sharman is currently Operations Manager for the Department of Chemistry at Imperial College London.[11] She still does outreach activities related to chemistry and her spaceflight, and was recently awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the British Science Association.[12]

Awards and honours

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, sending the burning embers onto the track. Encouraged to continue her run, without any flame from the torch, she proceeded round the track and climbed to the ceremonial flame. Despite the lack of any fire from the torch the ceremonial flame still ignited.[13]

For her pioneering efforts, Sharman was appointed an OBE in 1993, and the same year an honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.[14]

The British School in Assen, 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. The science block of BullersWood school, Chislehurst, Kent was opened by Sharman in 1994 and is called Sharman House. There is also a house named after her at Rugby High School for Girls a girls grammar school where houses are named after four influential women, and a Sharman house at Moorlands School, Leeds where houses are named after inspiring people from Yorkshire.

She has received a number of honorary degrees from UK universities, including:

Year Honour University Reference
1991 Honorary Fellow Sheffield Hallam University [15]
1995 Honorary Doctor of Science degree University of Kent [16]
1996 Honorary Doctor of Technology degree University of Plymouth [17]
1997 Honorary Doctor of Science degree Southampton Solent University [18]
1998 Honorary Doctor of Science degree Staffordshire University [19]
1999 Honorary Doctor of Science degree University of Exeter [20]
2010 Honorary Doctor of Science degree Brunel University London [21]


  • Seize the Moment: Autobiography of Britain's First Astronaut, 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)


  1. ^ "bbk: Birkbeck's Magazine, Issue 29, SPRING 2011" (PDF). Birkbeck University. p. 16. Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Helen Sharman, Made in Sheffield". Made in Sheffield Dot Com. Archived from the original on 14 August 2006. Retrieved 20 September 2006. 
  3. ^ "Spacefacts Biography of Helen Sharman". Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  4. ^ "United Kingdom: Helen Sharman". The  
  5. ^ "Brits In Space". Chicago Tribune. 30 May 1990. Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  6. ^ "Sharman becomes first Briton in space". The  
  7. ^ "Helen Sharman becomes the first Briton in space".  
  8. ^ Sharman, Helen (28 October 1993). Seize the Moment: The Autobiography of Britain's First Astronaut: Autobiography of Helen Sharman. Victor Gollancz.  
  9. ^ Sharman, Helen (12 March 1997). The Space Place. Portland Press.  
  10. ^ "Helen Patricia Sharman OBE - 2010". Brunel University. Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  11. ^ "Former astronaut Dr Helen Sharman finds a new space at Imperial". Imperial College London. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  12. ^ "Public engagement and media big hitters honoured by British Science Association". British Science Association. Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  13. ^ "Baton charge duty for Becks".  
  14. ^ "Who are our Honorary Fellows?".  
  15. ^ "Honorary Awards".  
  16. ^ "Honorary graduates 1990-99".  
  17. ^ "Honorary Degrees".  
  18. ^ "Honorary Graduates".  
  19. ^ "Recipients of Honorary Awards".  
  20. ^ "Honorary Graduates of the University".  
  21. ^ "Helen Patricia Sharman OBE - 2010".  

External links

  • 'Life in Space' A Masterclass for children by Helen Sharman Freeview Video by the Vega Science Trust
  • Spacefacts biography of Helen Sharman
  • BSN – The Helen Sharman School, Assen
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