go to content

People Are Pissed Off Helen Sharman Is Being Forgotten As The First Brit In Space

Although Tim Peake is being celebrated today, it was Sharman who made history back in 1991.

Posted on

Lots of people online celebrated Peake's achievement and hailed him as the "first Briton" in space. Except, wait a minute...

Many papers referring to today as "first Brit in space" - that was actually Helen Sharman 1991. #Spacelaunch

It turns out a number of people weren't aware that Helen Sharman was the first British astronaut who set off into space.

How is #TimPeake Britain's first "official" astronaut? Did Helen Sharman just sneak into the spaceship when nobody was looking?

Sharman travelled into space more than 20 years ago, in 1991.

The first #BritInSpace was Helen Sharman, flew on a Soyuz to the MIR space station in 1991. https://t.co/eWZ3nYuzYO https://t.co/B46b7LwgC3

It pissed a lot of people off.

Eee? 😡 What about Helen Sharman!!! Sure, she went up with Russians cosmonauts, but that’s just linguistic details https://t.co/MvznRQXYCQ

Many people quickly took to Twitter to congratulate Peake while clarifying that he wasn't the first.

Congratulations to Tim Peake, of course the first Briton in space was Helen Sharman, a woman!

I have a huge amount of respect for #TimPeake, but the rhetoric of "first British astronaut" does rather an injustice to Helen Sharman.

That's not right, Helen Sharman was. Congrats to Tim for being the 2nd though. https://t.co/VpfUs2vxJ6

I don’t give a tinker’s flick who funded her. Helen Sharman is British. And was the first British astronaut. The end.

Acknowledging that Helen Sherman was the first Briton in space does NOT undermine Tim Peake's achievement or courage. So just stop already!

Some people justified the "first official Briton in space" label by saying that Peake was the first British government-funded astronaut.

Incredible moment Tim Peake became first official British astronaut to be blasted into space https://t.co/72AYlIYEoY

The sound of a million people typing well-technically-she-wasn't-official could be heard across the internet.

This made Sharman not a "proper" contender for the title, a statement echoed in some media reports.

According to @Independent Helen Sharman wasn't a "proper person" now! @ChiOnwurah #womeninstem

@Independent A HUMAN FEMALE IS A PROPER PERSON. What is wrong with you? #properperson #HelenSharman https://t.co/XtUtoiijR8

@BBCBreaking Was Helen Sharman not the first official British astronaut?

Some pointed out that Peake was the first *male* British astronaut.

Helen Sharman was the first British astronaut. Tim Peake is the first male British astronaut.

#TimPeake - "Britain's first male astronaut" Well played, Woman's Hour, well played.

Following the furore, people began to refer to the factually correct "first British astronaut", Helen Sharman.

“Helen Sharman, the first ever British astronaut…” That was on #bbcnews just now. Calm down everyone. #TimPeake

Either way, yay for British people in space!

Rossalyn Warren is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Rossalyn Warren at rossalyn.warren@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.