Our Favorite Women of Space: 10 On-Screen Roles with Impact

BBC America launches Space Week today, July 15, with a slew of classic films and TV series that brought the final frontier down to Earth. On the eve of the 50th anniversary, you can catch the premiere of Wonders of the Moon on Friday, July 19 at 10/9c.

Here are ten women on intergalactic missions — if you can see it, it can happen:

1. Lieutenant Uhura 


Nichelle Nichols portrayed Lieutenant Uhura in the original Star Trek series from 1966-1969 and the subsequent films (1979-1989). Uhura acted as the Chief Communications Officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise, working closely with Captain Kirk (William Shatner). She played a significant role in the ongoing missions, many a time stepping in to translate between the ship's crew and aliens who posed a potential threat.

2. Princess Leia 


We first met Princess Leia in 1977's Star Wars, portrayed by the late Carrie Fisher. While she may have grown up pampered, she was no pushover. Leia was not scared to get her hands dirty, like when grabbing the chains that held her prisoner and strangling her captor Jabba the Hutt. Or, for instance, ditching the royal robes and throwing on Jedi gear to co-captain a starship.

3. Ellen Ripley 


Sigourney Weaver took on the role of Ellen Ripley in 1979's Alien. When we meet Ripley, she has just woken up from a suspended sleep, after her ship picks up an unexpected transmission signal. Her role as warrant officer is upgraded to soldier when the the ship is infested by an alien species. The crew is killed off one-by-one, but Ripley isn't going down without a fight.

4. Ellie Arroway


In 1997's Contact, an unidentified radio source from deep space is discovered, signifying the possibility of alien life. Jodie Foster takes on the role of Dr. Ellie Arroway, a scientist who has dedicated her entire career to looking for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. And, now is her chance. She lobbies to be the one sent to space to make "contact" with who is sending the signal.

5. Leeloo 


Milla Jovovich takes on the role of Leeloo in 1997's The Fifth Element. From the outside, Leeloo may appear to be human, but she is actually a supreme being "engineered" from ancient cells, recovered from an alien crash. At first she is defenseless, because she is brand new to this world, but adapts quickly, learning how to speak and... fight. She teams up with Bruce Willis' Korben Dallas, a taxi driver and former special ops agent, who helps her reunite with the keeper of the four other elements.

6. Starbuck 


Katee Sackhoff starred as fighter pilot Lieutenant Kara Starbuck in the fan favorite sci-fi drama Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009). Even in the far off future, Starbuck is one of the few, if only, female pilots. Gender doesn't matter when it comes to survival, because once up in the air, it's up to her as a soldier to protect the surviving human civilization from the alien Cylon attack.

7. EVE  


2008's animated film Wall-E revolves around a lonely robot left on Earth to collect garbage. He was eventually joined by EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), a female robot, who arrives to look for signs of life. When EVE is given orders that she finds nonsensical, she is somehow able to override her programming and make decisions for herself. This female A.I. has a conscience.

8. Elizabeth Shaw 


2012's Prometheus acted as a prequel to the Alien franchise, mentioned aboveNoomi Rapace takes on the role of Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. She heads up a scientific expedition to look for the origins of life and meet her maker. That is quite a lofty goal. One of our favorite Shaw moments is when she performs surgery on herself, removing an alien parasite. They say women do have a high threshold for pain.

9. Ryan Stone 


In 2013, Sandra Bullock took on the role of engineer Ryan Stone in the sci-fi film Gravity. Stone is working on an x-ray machine to be used in outer space, when she learns her daughter died due to an accidental head injury. Succumbed with grief, Stone continues her work, volunteering to go to space to install the x-ray machine. She's pretty much given up on any happiness, and leaves for her mission a shell of a person. Her time "abroad' helps in her recovery, returning with a newfound belief in life.

10. Nebula 


And, finally, Anglo fan favorite Karen Gillan takes on the role of Nebula in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy. Let's just say, Nebula is not one of the guardians... she leans toward baddie. But, we can cheer for a villain once in a while, right? Nebula grew up training to be an assassin, under the watch of her adopted father Thanos. Maybe she's not out to end the world but just a little misunderstood. At least she's her own woman and sticks to her convictions. We also meet up with Nebula in Marvel's Avengers franchise (2018-2019).

Have you ever dreamt of going to space!?