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- British chemist who became the first Briton in space
Aliens exist and they could be living among us, the first British astronaut into space has said.
Dr Helen Sharman, who went into space 28 years ago, said it is without a doubt that “all sorts of forms of life” are alive in the universe - but perhaps we “simply can’t see them” as they are so different to humanity.
“Aliens exist, there’s no two ways about it,” Dr Sharman told the Observer Magazine. “There are so many billions of stars out there in the universe that there must be all sorts of forms of life.
“Will they be like you and me, made up of carbon and nitrogen? Maybe not. It’s possible they’re right here right now and we simply can’t see them.”
In 1991 Dr Sharman became the first Briton in space after hearing a call for astronaut applicants on the radio while driving home from work. Despite fitting the criteria she almost decided against applying for the programme, but decided to chance it.
“Self-belief and a can-do attitude changed my life,” explained Dr Sharman. “I ticked all the boxes, but thought they wouldn't choose me so I wouldn't bother. By the time I got home I'd realised that if I didn't actually apply, then they couldn't choose me.”
Dr Sharman beat over 13,000 others to earn a spot in Project Juno, which was partially designed to boost London-Moscow relations by sending a Briton to the Russian space station Mir.
Her eight-day mission transformed the then 27-year-old into a national hero, yet according to Dr Sharman her achievement is sometimes forgotten.
In 2013, the UK Space Agency released statements describing Tim Peake - who travelled to the International Space Station in 2015 - as the UK’s first official astronaut, seemingly forgetting Sharman’s own trip into space.
Dr Sharman said: “When Tim Peake went into space, some people simply forgot about me.
“I’ve never defined myself by gender, and I continue not to do so. People often describe me as the first woman in space, but I was actually the first British person. It’s telling that we would otherwise assume it was a man.”
Throughout her life Dr Sharman has had to contend with the challenges often presented to females breaking the mould - but has always been adamant her gender “wasn’t going to stop” her.
Although 28-years have passed since Dr Sharman went to space, she said she will never forget the view of the Earth from the space station.
“There's no greater beauty than looking at the Earth from up high. I'll never forget the first time I saw it.
“After take-off we left the atmosphere and suddenly light streamed in through the window. We were over the Pacific Ocean. The gloriously deep blue seas took my breath away.”