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Thirty years ago Helen Sharman became the first UK astronaut in space – so why do we only remember the men?


t’s like the old Peter Ustinov joke. When the writer and raconteur of Russian descent was at school in England, his teacher would demand: “Ustinov, name a Russian composer.” The young pupil would answer correctly “Rimsky-Korsakov, sir.” To which his teacher would snort: “Wrong. It’s Tchaikovsky – everybody knows that.”

It’s an experience Helen Sharman might recognise:

“Name a British astronaut.”

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