|Alma mater||University of Sheffield (BSc in 1984)|
Birkbeck, University of London (Ph.D in 1987)
|Project Juno astronaut|
Time in space
|7d 21h 13m|
|Missions||Soyuz TM-12, Soyuz TM-11|
Helen Patricia Sharman, CMG, OBE, HonFRSC (born 30 May 1963) is a British chemist and cosmonaut who became the first British person, first Western European woman and first privately funded woman in space, as well as the first woman to visit the Mir space station, in May 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 obtained a BSc degree in chemistry at the University of Sheffield in 1984 and a PhD degree from Birkbeck, University of London in 1987. She worked as a research and development technologist for GEC in London and later as a chemist for Mars dealing with flavourant properties of chocolate. This later led the UK press to label her "The Girl from Mars".
Main article: Project Juno
After responding to a radio advertisement asking for applicants to be the first British space explorer, Helen Sharman was selected for the mission live on ITV, on 25 November 1989, ahead of nearly 13,000 other applicants. The programme was known as Project Juno and was a cooperative Soviet–British mission co-sponsored by a group of British companies.
Sharman was selected in a process that gave weight to scientific, educational and aerospace backgrounds as well as the ability to learn a foreign language.
Before flying, Sharman spent 18 months in intensive flight training in Star City, Moscow. The Project Juno consortium failed to raise the money expected, and the programme was almost cancelled. With a view towards the flight's impact on international relations, the project proceeded under Soviet expense although as a cost-saving measure, 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 a licensed 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 27 years and 11 months old when she went into space, making her (as of 2017[update]) the sixth youngest of the 556 individuals who have flown in space. 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.
Since Juno was not an ESA mission, Tim Peake became the first ESA British astronaut more than 20 years later.
For her Project Juno accomplishments, Sharman received a star on the Sheffield Walk of Fame.
Sharman broke several records including;
|first British cosmonaut||25 November 1989|
|first British person in space||18 May 1991|
|first Western European woman in space||18 May 1991|
Sharman spent the eight years following her mission to Mir self-employed, communicating science to the public. Her autobiography, Seize the Moment, was published in 1993. In 1997 she published a children's book, The Space Place. She has presented radio and television programmes including for BBC Schools.
By 2011, she was working at the National Physical Laboratory as Group Leader of the Surface and Nanoanalysis Group. Sharman became Operations Manager for the Department of Chemistry at Imperial College London in 2015. She continues outreach activities related to chemistry and her spaceflight, and in 2015 was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the British Science Association.
In August 2016, Sharman appeared as herself in an episode of the Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks.
In January 2020, Sharman said in an interview that "aliens exist, there's no two ways about it" but that "it's possible ... we simply can't see them", a reference to the idea of a shadow biosphere.
Helen Sharman was awarded the bronze and silver and gold Medal of the Royal Aero Club, in 1990. Then, 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.
For her determined pioneering efforts, Sharman was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1992 Birthday Honours, and the following year an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (HonFRSC). Sharman was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 2018 New Year Honours for services to Science and Technology Outreach.
On 26 May 1991, by Decree of the President of the USSR No. UP-2010, Helen was awarded the "Order of Friendship of Peoples".
On 12 April 2011, by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation No. 437, she was awarded the medal "For Merit in Space Exploration".
The British School in Assen, Netherlands is named the Helen Sharman School after her.
Additionally, Sharman has been recognised by multiple schools in having houses being named in her honour. 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 Bullers Wood school, Chislehurst, Kent was opened by Sharman in 1994 and is called Sharman House. She has also been honoured 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. In the 2021/22 academic year, the independent girls' school Notting Hill and Ealing High School is introducing a new fourth house, which will bear Sharman's name in recognition of her as a pioneer for women in STEM.
In addition to this, a residential development in Stafford in the West Midlands of England has a street named Helen Sharman Drive in her honour (), and more recently a block of student flats in Sheffield bear her name. The true identity of fictional comic-book character Steel Bolt was also named partly in homage to her.
She has received a number of honorary degrees from UK universities, including:
|1991||Honorary Fellow||Sheffield Hallam University|||
|1995||Honorary Doctor of Science degree||University of Kent|||
|1996||Honorary Doctor of Technology degree||University of Plymouth|||
|1997||Honorary Doctor of Science degree||Southampton Solent University|||
|1998||Honorary Doctor of Science degree||Staffordshire University|||
|1999||Honorary Doctor of Science degree||University of Exeter|||
|2010||Honorary Doctor of Science degree||Brunel University London|||
|2017||Honorary Doctor of Science degree||Kingston University|||
|2017||Honorary Doctor of Science degree||University of Hull|||
|2017||Honorary Doctor of Science degree||University of Sheffield|||
|2018||Honorary Doctor of Health Sciences degree||York St John University|||