By Marcia Dunn
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Space is about to have a female population explosion.
One woman already is circling Earth in a Russian capsule, bound for the International Space Station. Early Monday morning, NASA will attempt to launch three more women to the orbiting outpost — along with four men — aboard shuttle Discovery.
It will be the most women in space at the same time.
Men still will outnumber the women by more than 2-to-1 aboard the shuttle and station, but that won't take away from the remarkable achievement, coming 27 years after America's first female astronaut, Sally Ride, rocketed into space.
A former schoolteacher is among the four female astronauts about to make history, as well as a chemist who once worked as an electrician, and two aerospace engineers. Three are American; one is Japanese.
But it makes no difference to educator-astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger's 3-year-old daughter Cambria.
"To her, flying is cool. Running around is being cool. Just learning and growing up as a kid is cool. There aren't a lot of distinctions, and that's how I want it to be," said Metcalf-Lindenburger, 34, who used to teach high school science in Vancouver, Wash.
Indeed, the head of NASA's space operations was unaware of the imminent women-in-space record until a reporter brought it up last week. Three women have flown together in space before, but only a few times.
"Maybe that's a credit to the system, right? That I don't think of it as male or female," said space operations chief Bill Gerstenmaier. "I just think of it as a talented group of people going to do their job in space."
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