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Helen Sharman OBE

Helen Sharman Helen Sharman would be the first person to describe her background as 'ordinary' but most people would agree that her achievement as the first British person in space is quite extraordinary.

Helen was born on May 30 1963 at Sheffield's Jessop Hospital. The Sharman family lived at Grenoside (Helen attended Grenoside Junior and Infant School) then Greenhill. After studying at Jordanthorpe Comprehensive, Helen gained a Chemistry degree at Sheffield University.

Her first job was as an engineer for a division of GEC in London and she also began studying part time for a PhD at Birbeck College, London. In August 1987, Helen became a Research Technologist for Mars Confectionery, where part of her job was to study the chemical and physical properties of chocolate!

In June 1989, while driving home from the Mars factory in Slough, Helen heard a radio ad that would change her life: 'Astronaut wanted - no experience necessary.' The only requirements were that applicants should be British, aged 21-40, with a science background, the ability to learn a foreign language and a good level of fitness.
Helen Sharman Helen beat more than 13,000 applicants to be selected as one of the final four candidates for the position of UK cosmonaut on the Soviet space mission Project Juno. She had to undergo weeks of exhaustive physical and psychological tests but eventually made it down to the final two candidates.

She was then sent for 18 months of gruelling training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Moscow's Star City. Helen underwent preparation for coping with weightlessness, living in a cramped environment, survival procedures and learning to pilot rocket systems. In May 1991 Helen became the first Briton in space when she spent 8 days at the Mir Space Station conducting scientific experiments.

Since her return she has continued to work as a scientist and has become one of the country's leading ambassadors for science, giving lectures around the world. Helen is also an accomplished broadcaster, presenting numerous science based radio and television programmes.

Helen was awarded the OBE in 1992 and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Royal Aeronautical Society, British Interplanetary Society, Sheffield Hallam University and senior fellow of the University of Sheffield.

Photographs of Helen Sharman by Phil Dodds.

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