Spaceflight Insider

Astronaut Anna Fisher retires after more than three decades at NASA

Astronaut Anna Fisher

An iconic image of astronaut Anna Fisher. Photo Credit: John Bryson

Astronaut Anna Fisher, after working for NASA over three decades, has retired from the organization to spend more time with her children. In 1978, Anna Fisher was selected by NASA to be among the first of six women to enter the professional pool of astronauts. Fisher also holds the distinction of being the first mother in space.

Astronaut Anna Fisher

Astronaut Anna Lee Fisher (April 4, 2002). Photo Credit: NASA

Fisher holds a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and a Doctor of Medicine from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her master’s degree in chemistry was earned at UCLA while in the Ph.D. program. Fisher views San Pedro, California, as her hometown and it is there that she graduated from High School. Her ties to Los Angeles include an internship in Torrance, California, and she worked in numerous hospitals throughout the Los Angeles area in the field of emergency medicine.

Fisher completed her astronaut training in the summer of 1979 and was qualified as a mission specialist for the Space Shuttle flight crews. Her first experience was as a crew representative for STS-5 through STS-7, where she supported vehicle integrated testing and payload testing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

As a physician, Fisher also supported each Orbital Flight Test for STS-1 through STS-4 in the rescue helicopter. Rescue procedures were developed with Fisher’s knowledge and experience. The STS-9 mission also utilized Fisher as an in-orbit Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM).

As a mission specialist assigned to STS-51A, the Space Shuttle Discovery’s second flight that launched on November 8, 1984, Fisher as a mission specialist went to space for eight days. The focus of the mission was to launch two satellites from their cargo bay on day 2 and day 3. Fisher was the arm operator and was instrumental in all satellite activities; however, as the first salvage mission, the crew also captured and retrieved two additional satellites.

The Space Shuttle Discovery made 127 Earth orbits on that flight and concluded the mission with a perfect landing at Kennedy Space Center on November 16, 1984.

Prior to the January 28, 1986, explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, Fisher was assigned mission specialist on STS-61H. Post-Challenger explosion, she was assigned deputy of the Mission Development branch of the Astronaut Office while also a representative on behalf of the astronaut office for Flight Data File issues. The Crew Procedures Change Board utilized Fisher as a crew representative during the investigation.

Anna Fisher on STS-51A

Anna Fisher on STS-51A. Photo Credit: NASA

After a family leave of absence, Anna Fisher, in the capacity of Chief of the Space Station branch, focused on the early phases of building the International Space Station (ISS) between 1996 through 2002. Her focus on tasks included space station operations while working with international partners in addition to supervising assigned astronauts and project engineers.

As the ISS Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM), Fisher worked at Mission Control Center between January 2011 and August 2013, then as the lead CAPCOM for Expedition 33.

In line with the ISS purpose, Fisher spent a year in graduate school working in the field of X-ray crystallographic studies of metallocarbenes. She co-authored three publications relating to these studies for the scientific journal Inorganic Chemistry. As a world-renowned space laboratory, this work experience gave Fisher an appreciation for the ISS unique environment.

Anna Fisher’s NASA career concluded with her appointment of management astronaut to work on display development for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV).

Fisher also supported European payloads for the ISS Integration Branch to ensure the ISS continues the advancement of scientific knowledge and demonstration of new technologies. These advancements ensure Fisher’s efforts will have made long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space possible.

As the first mother in space, it is fitting that Anna Fisher’s retirement will allow for her to spend more family time with her daughters, Kristin and Kara Fisher.

Video courtesy of NASA Johnson



Jerome Strach has worked within the Silicon Valley community for 20 years including software entertainment and film. Along with experience in software engineering, quality assurance, and middle management, he has long been a fan of aerospace and entities within that industry. A voracious reader, a model builder, and student of photography and flight training, most of his spare time can be found focused on launch events and technology advancements including custom mobile app development. Best memory as a child is building and flying Estes rockets with my father. @Romn8tr

Reader Comments

Zane Boehlke

Great read! Nice work!

Congratulations on making it to the big RET date!! Everyone who knew you in Building 4 South said good things. So enjoy it.

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