Anna Lee Fisher

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Anna Lee Fisher
Anna Fisher - 1979.jpg
Born (1949-08-24) August 24, 1949 (age 70)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Alma materUCLA (BS, MD, MS)
OccupationChemist, Emergency physician
Space career
Time in space
7d 23h 44m
Selection1978 NASA Group
Mission insignia
A video of Anna Lee Fisher in 1981 talking about why she wants to go to space.

Anna Lee Fisher (née Tingle)[1][3] (born August 24, 1949) is an American chemist, emergency physician, and a former NASA astronaut. Formerly married to fellow astronaut Bill Fisher, and the mother of two children, in 1984 she became the first mother in space.[4] During her career at NASA, she has been involved with three major programs: the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station and the Orion project.


Fisher was born in New York City, and grew up in San Pedro, California. She is a 1967 graduate of San Pedro High School. She went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry in 1971 at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Fisher then stayed on at UCLA and started graduate school in chemistry in the field of x-ray crystallographic studies of metallocarbonanes. The following year she moved to the UCLA School of Medicine, where she received her Doctor of Medicine degree in 1976. She completed her internship at Harbor General Hospital in Torrance, California, in 1977. She chose to specialize in emergency medicine and worked in several hospitals in the Los Angeles area. Fisher later went back to graduate school and received a Master of Science in Chemistry from UCLA in 1987. She resides in Houston, Texas.

NASA career[edit]

Fisher was selected as an astronaut candidate in January 1978. In August 1979, she completed her training and evaluation period, making her eligible for assignment as a mission specialist on space shuttle flight crews.[5][6][7]

Fisher being suited up. As one of the first woman astronauts, she contributed to the design of a space suit tailored to the female anatomy.

Following the one-year basic training program, Fisher's early NASA assignments (pre-STS-1 through STS-4) included the following:

  • The development and testing of the Canadarm Remote Manipulator System (RMS) – commonly called the shuttle's "robotic arm";
  • Contributing to the design of spacesuits tailored to fit women (called extra-small Extravehicular Mobility Units, or EMUs);
  • The development and testing of payload bay door contingency spacewalk procedures, and contingency repair procedures;
  • Verification of flight software at the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL) – in that capacity she reviewed test requirements and procedures for ascent, on-orbit, and RMS software verification – and served as a crew evaluator for verification and development testing for STS-2, STS-3 and STS-4.

For STS-5 through STS-7, Fisher supported vehicle integrated testing and payload testing at Kennedy Space Center. In addition, Fisher supported each Orbital Flight Test (STS 1-4) launch and landing (at either a prime or backup site) as a physician in the rescue helicopters, and provided both medical and operational inputs to the development of rescue procedures. Fisher was a CAPCOM for STS-9.

She eventually flew in late 1984 on STS-51-A aboard Discovery. The mission deployed two satellites, and recovered two others that had been placed into improper orbits due to the malfunctioning of their kick motors (see mission STS-41-B).


Fisher was assigned as a mission specialist on STS-61-H prior to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Following the accident she worked as the Deputy of the Mission Development Branch of the Astronaut Office, and as the astronaut office representative for Flight Data File issues. In that capacity she served as the crew representative on the Crew Procedures Change Board. Fisher served on the Astronaut Selection Board for the 1987 class of astronauts. Fisher also served in the Space Station Support Office where she worked part-time in the Space Station Operations Branch. She was the crew representative supporting space station development in the areas of training, operations concepts, and the health maintenance facility.

Leave of absence[edit]

With her husband, fellow astronaut Dr. William Frederick Fisher, she had two daughters, Kristin Anne (b. July 29, 1983)[8] and Kara Lynne (b. January 10, 1989).[1] From 1988 to 1996, Dr. Fisher took an extended leave from NASA to raise her family.


When she first returned to the Astronaut Office, she was assigned to the Operations Planning Branch to work on the procedures and training issues in support of the International Space Station. She served as the Branch Chief of the Operations Planning Branch from June 1997-June 1998. Following a reorganization of the Astronaut office, she was assigned as the Deputy for Operations/Training of the Space Station Branch from June 1998-June 1999. In that capacity, she had oversight responsibility for Astronaut Office inputs to the Space Station Program on issues regarding operations, procedures, and training for the ISS. She next served as Chief of the Space Station Branch of the Astronaut Office with oversight responsibility for 40-50 astronauts and support engineers. In that capacity, she coordinated all astronaut inputs to the Space Station Program Office on issues regarding the design, development, and testing of space station hardware. Additionally, she coordinated all Astronaut Office inputs to Space Station operations, procedures, and training and worked with the International Partners to negotiate common design requirements and standards for displays and procedures.

She also served as the Astronaut Office representative on numerous Space Station Program Boards and Multilateral Boards. Fisher was later assigned to the Shuttle Branch and worked technical assignments in that branch. In 2012, she briefly made news when, during the landing of the Space Shuttle Discovery at Washington's Dulles Airport, where it was being retired to the Smithsonian Institution, she advised an aspiring astronaut to "study Russian". At least one commentator suggested this was a veiled criticism of the US government's lack of funding for the space program.[9]

As a management astronaut, she worked jointly for the Capsule Communicator and Exploration branches of NASA, working as a station CAPCOM and on display development for the Orion project[5] until her retirement in April 2017.[10]

Spaceflight experience[edit]

Fisher was a mission specialist on STS-51A which launched November 8, 1984. She was accompanied by Frederick Hauck (spacecraft commander), David Walker (pilot) and fellow mission specialists Dr. Joseph Allen and Dale Gardner. With the completion of her flight, Fisher logged a total of 192 hours in space. This mission made her the first mother in space.[4]

Fisher has stated that she was in line to fly another shuttle mission when the Columbia disaster happened.[11]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • National Science Foundation Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 1970, 1971
  • Graduated from UCLA cum laude and with honors in chemistry.
  • NASA Space Flight Medal
  • Lloyd's of London Silver Medal for Meritorious Salvage Operations
  • Mother of the Year Award, 1984
  • UCLA Professional Achievement Award
  • UCLA Medical Professional Achievement Award
  • NASA Exceptional Service Medal, 1999.
  • California Science Center Woman of the year, 1986
  • UCLA Alumni of the Year Award, 2012

In popular culture[edit]

As an astronaut, before and after her flight assignments, Fisher did (and does) a number of public appearances per year. Those include official duties — Fisher spoke to visitors at the September 22, 2012 open house of Nasa's Langley Research Center.[12] Those include semi-official duties — Fisher was a special guest at the 99th Indianapolis 500 on May 24, 2015.[13] Those have also included appearances related to both the novelty of her being one of the original six women selected by NASA (Connie Chung interviewed her on the day she was selected[14]) and her former marriage to fellow astronaut Bill Fisher — they appeared together with their daughter Kristin on an August 1983 segment of Good Morning America.[15]

Iconic photograph[edit]

Outside of the publicity she does herself, her likeness has been widely shared on the Internet and it has been used in various promotions and tribute art. One photograph in particular has become iconic. Photographer John Bryson shot a series of photos of Fisher wearing a helmet and space suit. One shot in the series, in which she is turned farthest away from the camera (almost in complete profile), has been frequently posted, shared, and reposted on social media sites including Tumblr,[16],[17] and Reddit.[18] The image has since been used to promote the bands Muse[citation needed], MGMT,[19] Incubus,[20] The Arctic Monkeys,[21] Max & Harvey,[22] and The Moth & The Flame.[23] The British singer Kate Bush also wears a space helmet and similar pose in her 1991 video for Rocket Man.[24] The comments and captions of the Internet posts often reflect confusion about the date[note 1] and confusion about the publication history [note 2] of the image.


  1. ^ When the photograph was taken is not known. A photo from the same shoot is available for license at Corbis,[25] but the date (1970) in the Corbis metadata is from before Fisher was an astronaut. Another image from the shoot is in the UCLA archive. That image is available from Getty[26] where it is captioned "Astronaut Anna L. Fisher smiling, wearing space suit" and it is dated June 1, 1978. This date too is likely incorrect. While she was selected as an astronaut in January 1978, her first day on the job at NASA was July 5, 1978.[27] Another photo exists of Fisher and her husband Bill that was also shot by Bryson. The image features the couple in the foreground and the space shuttle in the background. It was part of the Sygma agency's collection and is now available for license from Corbis.[28] The date Corbis has for that image is June 1, 1980. This is a month after Bill Fisher was accepted into the astronaut program.[1] It is unknown whether Bryson visited Houston once or if he photographed Anna Fisher and then photographed her and her husband on separate occasions. Correction: First photo shoot was on the 27th January 1978 then further shoots on the 30th, 31st of January, also the 1st, 3rd, 8th, 9th, 11th, 14th & 15th of February 1978. Bryson followed Fisher working as an emergency room doctor in hospital, getting measured for her spacesuit, then wearing the whole suit including the iconic photo. In 2014 The Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas acquired John Bryson's papers. The guide to the archive, posted online in 2015, has no mention of Fisher, NASA, or visits to Houston.[29]
  2. ^ In addition to the contradictory dates, there is also confusion about its publication history. The photo became massively popular on the internet after it was cross-posted from Blogger to Tumblr on June 19, 2009 by Calvin[30] of Calvin's Cave of Cool. Calvin's original post has been deleted and it is not known where he got it from, but fellow Blogger user—Thomas Haller Buchanan—also posted the photo to Blogger on April 16, 2009[31] three months before Calvin did. This is the earliest known posting of the image. Buchanan, as do many subsequent commenters, claim[32] that the image was in (or alternately on the cover of) the May 1985 issue of Life Magazine. This was not the case. John Bryson's son, Scott, contacted Time/Life[33] and they rejected those claims. Scott Bryson has speculated elsewhere[34] that the original negative may have been lost by Sygma or lost when "near riots broke out in the Paris office". Sygma has been sued by photographers in the past for losing images.[35]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  1. ^ a b c "William F. Fisher (M.D.) Biographical Data (1989)". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  2. ^ Shayler David, Ian A. Moule (Aug 29, 2006). Women in Space - Following Valentina. Chichester UK: Springer Science & Business Media. p. 172. ISBN 1852337443. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  3. ^ During the NASA application process she used the name Anna Sims (although her maiden name was Tingle).[2]
  4. ^ a b "Anna Lee Fisher - UCLA Class of 1971". Retrieved 2015-10-08.
  5. ^ a b "Anna Lee Fisher (M.D.) Biographical Data (2014)". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Archived from the original on 22 October 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  6. ^ "Anna Fisher page on". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
  7. ^ "Spacefacts biography of Anna Lee Fisher". Retrieved 2014-04-11.
  8. ^ Kristin Fisher is now a correspondent for FOX News in Washington DC Kristin Fisher (LinkedIn), accessed April 5, 2016
  9. ^ Crugnale, James (17 April 2012). "NASA Astronaut Takes Dig At Obama, Tells Aspiring Cadet To 'Study Russian'". Mediaite. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  10. ^ "Astronaut Anna Fisher, first mom in space, retires from NASA after 39 years - collectSPACE".
  11. ^ 2019 UCLA College Commencement Ceremony, Anna Fisher speech, June 14, 2019 (livestreamed on YouTube)
  12. ^ "NASA Langley Open House". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  13. ^ "Stars walk the Indy 500 red carpet". Archived from the original on 15 February 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  14. ^ "NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project". NASA. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  15. ^ "Astronauts Anna and Bill Fisher and baby daughter Kristen Ann". Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  16. ^ "anna fisher on Tumblr".
  17. ^ One of the earlier posts of the photo to go viral, posted 2009-06-20 18:24:34 on Archived 2017-04-27 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Sample Reddit discussions include 20 May 2012, 27 Jul 2013, and 23 Jun 2015.
  19. ^ "MGMT at the Fillmore September 6 2013 by artist John Vogl". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  20. ^ "Incubus December 5, 2013 Lima Peru". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  21. ^ "Arctic Monkeys January 14, 2015 The Fillmore". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  22. ^ "Max and Harvey If I Don't Make It Home". Archived from the original on 5 January 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  23. ^ "The Moth & The Flame "Young & Unafraid" full length album". Instagram. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  24. ^ Kate Bush Video, Rocket Man, 1991
  25. ^ "American astronaut Anna Lee Fisher". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  26. ^ "Anna L. Fisher". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  27. ^ "NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  28. ^ "William Frederick Fisher with Anna Lee Fisher". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  29. ^ "A Guide to the Bryson (John) Archive, circa 1945-1995". Texas Archival Resources Online. Briscoe Center. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  30. ^ paulmartian. "user comment". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  31. ^ Buchanan, Thom. "My Favorite Astronaut". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  32. ^ Buchanan, Thom. "Cosmic Endeavors". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  33. ^ Bryson, Scott. "User Comment". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  34. ^ Bryson, Scott. "User Comment". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  35. ^ Sofri, Luca. "Sygma photo agency shuts down". Retrieved 5 April 2016.

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