Shannon W. Lucid
          Chief Scientist, NASA Although she is preoccupied with framing NASA's scientific vision, this former astronaut would go back to space "this instant" if given the chance. Until last June, the biochemist held the American single-flight endurance record—188 days aboard the Russian
Mir space station. She says the voyage was never boring: "I was living two seconds away from my laboratory, so I could wake up in the morning, think, 'What kind of exciting science can I do today?' and immediately get to work." 

Lynn Margulis
           Distinguished Professor, University of Massachusetts at Amherst "People say I am against Darwin. That is ridiculous," says the evolutionist, who argues against the conventional wisdom commonly but incorrectly attributed to Darwin that random mutations lead to new species. "Darwin didn't know how species originate," says
Margulis, who thinks new species evolve from the symbiotic merger of organisms. According to her widely accepted theory, the fusion of early bacteria gave rise to the first nucleated cells. Further mergers produced their chloroplasts, mitochondria, and other cellular structures.

 Kathleen Howell
            Professor of Aeronautical and
Astronautical Engineering, Purdue University NASA and other space agencies have long relied on brute force—and a lot of fuel—to get spacecraft to their destinations. A more efficient technique, developed by Howell, plays off the unseen free energy in the solar system. "The gravity fields of the system's different objects create natural pathways that a spacecraft can follow," says Howell. The astronautical engineer and one of her grad students designed such a trajectory for NASA's low-fuel Genesis probe, launched in 2001, which will collect samples of solar wind and return them to Earth in September 2004.

For more information about these amazing women and others go to: http://www.science20.com/i_can_get_science/yesterday_today_top_women_scientists-33348

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