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Kathryn Sullivan TIME 100
Stephen Voss for TIME

Kathryn Sullivan

Apr 23, 2014

There may be no better way to appreciate the earth than to leave it, to look back on the beauty and fragility of our planet from the vantage point of space. Only a tiny fraction of humanity gets that opportunity, so when someone does — and also happens to be one of the smartest people around when it comes to earth sciences — it’s good to have her on our side, especially in challenging times. That’s what makes us all lucky that Kathryn Sullivan was just confirmed as administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Kathy is not just an ivory-tower scientist. She was part of NASA’s first class of female astronauts, selected in 1978, and went on to fly three shuttle missions. She is the first American woman to walk in space and served aboard the mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope. That role in helping humanity look outward has not prevented her from looking homeward. The planet is suffering increasingly severe upheavals, at least partly a result of climate change — droughts, floods, typhoons, tornadoes. I believe my good friend Kathy is the right person for the right job at the right time.

Photos: The Space Sorority

NASA Astronaut Sally K. Ride, STS-7 mission specialist, communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck of the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Challenger at an unknown location, on June 21, 1983. Ride was America's first woman in space.
NASA Astronaut Sally K. Ride, STS-7 mission specialist, communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck of the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Challenger, on June 21, 1983. Ride was America's first woman in space.NASA/DPA/Corbis
NASA Astronaut Sally K. Ride, STS-7 mission specialist, communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck of the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Challenger at an unknown location, on June 21, 1983. Ride was America's first woman in space.
NASA astronaut Linda Godwin on STS-131, in 2010. Godwin traveled in four spaceflights, logging over 38 days in space, as well as over 10 EVA hours during two spacewalks.
Sandy Magnus - NASA astronaut and stealth craft engineer - flies in a T-38 trainer on her way from Houston to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida June 20, 2011.
Japanese astronaut Chiaki Mukai and John Glenn at a press conference, on Oct. 8, 1998. Mukai was Japan's first woman in space.
Astronaut Marsha Ivins, mission specialist aboard space shuttle Columbia, surrounded by cameras and supportive gear suspended by zero-gravity, on Jan. 1, 1990. Ivins flew in space five times.
The greatest number of women in space at any one time was four, in 2010. From lower right: NASA astronauts Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, both STS-131 mission specialists, Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Expedition 23 flight engineer; and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, STS-131 mission specialist, on the International Space Station in the Cupola.
NASA astronaut Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper, STS-115 mission specialist, takes a self-portrait during a space walk, on Sept. 12, 2006.
NASA Astronaut Susan J. Helms, flight engineer, views the topography of a point on Earth from the nadir window in the U.S. Laboratory / Destiny module of the International Space Station (ISS), on March 31, 2001. Helms is now a three-star lieutenant general in the United States Air Force.
French astronaut Claudie Haigneré trains with a cosmonaut at the City of the Stars, Russia's space exploration facility near Moscow, in 1996. Haigneré was France's first woman in space.
NASA astronaut Kalpana Chawla looks over a procedures checklist in the SPACEHAB Research Double Module aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, on Jan. 27, 2003.
NASA Astronaut Nancy Currie reads a manual as she grapples an arriving space station module, in the cargo bay of the Endeavour, on Dec. 6, 1998.
From left: NASA astronaut Mike Massimino looks through an aft flight deck window with astronaut Megan McArthur inside the Space Shuttle Atlantis, on May 17, 2009 during the mission's fourth spacewalk to refurbish and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.
South Korea's first woman in space, astronaut Yi So-yeon is helped by Russian specialists as she undergoes a splashdown landing training session in the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Sevastopol, on July 24, 2007.
NASA astronaut Shannon Walker lands near the town of Arkalyk in northern Kazakhstan, on Nov. 26, 2010.
Astronaut Kathryn Sullivan at the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, on July 20, 1984. Sullivan was the first U.S. woman to space walk from the shuttle Challenger, on Oct. 13, 1984.
Chinese astronaut Liu Yang waves as she attends a drill in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province, on July 27, 2012. On June 16, 2012, Yang became China's first woman in space.
Canada's first female astronaut—and a neurologist as well—Roberta Bondar flew aboard the space shuttle in 1992
Astronaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman sent into space, in Moscow, on June 16, 1963.
NASA Astronaut Sally K. Ride, STS-7 mission specialist, communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck of the
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NASA/DPA/Corbis
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