Rock out as this band of flying robots made by KMel Robotics plays the “2001: A Space Odyssey” theme song, “Carol of the Bells”, and the U.S. national anthem the “Star Spangled Banner.” The group will be playing live this weekend at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington D.C.
It’s that time of year again. The TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world is officially out, and while boldface names like Beyoncé, Pope Francis and Robert Redford will get most of the attention, there’s also a surprising number of figures whose influence extends to the environment. A quick rundown:
MoreSee the Full ListWant to Heal the Planet? Make Environmental Degrees FreeSpending Earth Day at Ground Zero for Climate Change In America
- Tom Steyer: Steyer became a billionaire as a bold hedge-fund trader. Now the San Francisco financier is betting some of his fortune on climate change, spending tens of millions of dollars to support candidates who are willing to act on global warming—and punishing those that won’t. Suddenly the Koch Brothers have competition.
- Katharine Hayhoe: The bubbly Texas Tech climatologist has been doing work on climate change for years, but she came to the country’s attention earlier this month when she was featured in the premiere episode of Showtime’s global warming documentary Years of Living Dangerously. What sets Hayhoe apart from most climatologists is her faith: She’s an evangelical Christian, and proud of it. She’s made it her mission to bring the facts of climate change to her fellow believers.
- Alice Waters: Waters all but kicked off the locavore revolution when she opened her Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse in 1971. But in recent years she’s turned her focus to children, using her pioneering Edible Schoolyard Project to push the idea that kids should be able to learn about food and farming in schools. Waters continues to change the way Americans eat—from the ground up.
- Yao Chen: Every Chinese knows the air quality in their country is bad and getting worse. But not every Chinese is willing to say that out loud. Yao is the exception. The beloved movie star has more than 66 million followers on Weibo, China’s microblogging network, and she uses that platform to raise concerns about the country’s poisoned air and water.
- Jack Ma: The founder of the Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba, Ma has become one of China’s richest businessmen. But last year he stepped back from his business to become the chairman of the Nature Conservancy’s China program, taking on his country’s catastrophic pollution.
- Kathryn Sullivan: NASA may get all the glory, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forms the backbone of U.S. climate and weather research. NOAA is led now by Sullivan, part of the first class of female astronauts and a veteran of three space shuttle flights—including the one that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope.
There are 41 women on the 2014 TIME 100, a record number. Sure, it’s not quite parity, and in previous years we’ve explored the reasons that’s so hard to achieve. But one of the more striking things about many of the women on this year’s list of the world’s most influential people, is that being the first female or the youngest to triumph in a particular field isn’t even the most exciting part of their story. In many cases, these women have chosen to use their success to amplify their influence beyond their professional spheres. Beyonce for example, smashed iTunes sales records held by both genders and she did it with songs about topics that have often been relegated to the women’s issues niche. She sings about marriage, body image, and motherhood and included a cameo by a Nigerian writer in a music video and it didn’t just sell, it ignited a conversation about feminism around the world.MoreThe Green Heroes of the TIME 100Ripple EffectsMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostAmerican Idol: Caleb Johnson Has the Moment of the Night People
And while the singer also known as Mrs. Carter is perhaps the most famous face in this group of 41 women, collectively their influence is both powerful and broad, spanning religion, politics, the arts, sports, activism and philanthropy.Popular Among Subscribers Barbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness Subscribe Shinzo Abe: The PatriotThe Blindness of Bigotry
Here are 21 numbers that reflect some of that breadth. (You can see the entire TIME 100 here and a full list of the 41 women on this year’s list is below.)Beyoncé
828,773: The number of copies Beyoncé sold of her eponymous album in just three days, breaking an iTunes record.Megan Ellison
35: The total number of Oscar nominations for movies produced by Ellison, including Zero Dark Thirty, American Hustle and Her.Yao Chen
66,618,878: The number of fans Chinese actress Yao Chen has on social-networking site Sina Weibo as of April 2014.Hillary Clinton
57,095: The number of retweets the former Secretary of State received for a tweet about watching Fox during the Super Bowl.Hillary Clinton at the University of Miami on Feb. 26, 2014. Joe Raedle—Getty Images Miley Cyrus
19.3 million: The number of views Cyrus’ video for her song “Wrecking Ball” received in its first 24 hours, smashing a Vevo record.Kirsten Gillibrand Lydia Ko
17: Age at which South Korean golfer Ko became the youngest-ever winner of an LPGA Tour event in 2012.Jenji Kohan
61: The number of real women who were photographed for the opening credits of the Kohan-created Netflix smash Orange Is the New Black.Kristen Anderson-Lopez
2.3 million: The number of downloads for Anderson-Lopez and her husband Robert Lopez’s co-written Frozen soundtrack, which has spent 11 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 — so far.Natalie Massenet
$3.4 billion: The estimated valuation (according to Bank Vontobel AG) of fashion company Net-a-Porter, founded by Massenet, in a possible IPO this year.Angela Merkel
9: The number of years politician Merkel has been the Chancellor of Germany. She is the first woman to hold that office, and is considered to be the most powerful leader in Europe.Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe
2,000: The approximate number of vulnerable girls educated at Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe’s school in Uganda since 2002.Kathryn Sullivan
532: The number of hours Kathryn Sullivan spent in space during her astronaut days — she became the first woman to walk in space when she took a three-and-a-half hour spacewalk in 1984. Now she’s the director of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.Donna Tartt
200,000: The record-breaking number of visitors who visited the Frick Collection to see The Goldfinch, the 350-year-old painting that inspired Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name.Barbara Brown Taylor Kerry Washington
x20: The increase in volume of Crate & Barrel glasses sold since Washington’s character Olivia Pope started using them on the hit ABC show Scandal.Alice Waters
200: The number of recipes listed in legendary chef Waters’ 2013 book, The Art of Simple Food II.Serena Williams
17: The number of Grand Slams Singles titles won by tennis superstar Williams.Janet Yellen
$16 trillion: The estimated size of the United States economy, which Yellen manages as chair of the Federal Reserve.Malala Yousafzai
2.2 million: The number of people who signed education activist Yousafzai’s Malala petition, which persuaded the U.N. to recommit to universal primary education.Malala Yousafzai at the official opening of the Library of Birmingham in Birmingham, Britain, 03 September 2013. FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA—EPA
Here’s a full list of the women of the 2014 TIME 100.
The 2013 TIME 100: What Holds Women Back From the TIME 100?
The 2014 TIME 100 list–the annual determination of people who influenced the world in the past year for better or worse–is here, and we highlight the leaders making a difference in health.MoreThe Green Heroes of the TIME 100By the Numbers: The Women of the 2014 TIME 100Men Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostAmerican Idol: Caleb Johnson Has the Moment of the Night People
This year, TIME recognizes nine innovators who tackled issues from hunger and maternal health to marijuana and aging.
- Christy Turlington Burns, an ambassador for maternal health. Burns founded Every Mother Counts, which provides poor countries with health education, medicine and emergency care.
“When [mothers] are healthy, everyone thrives. Christy is helping make that happen.” –Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Ertharin Cousin, a Chicagoan who helps feed the world. As head of the U.N.’s World Food Program, Cousin is responsible for feeding over 100 million people each year.
“Her goal is nothing short of eradicating global hunger in our lifetimes, creating a world where no child or adult knows the feeling of an empty stomach” –Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, served in the Clinton and Obama administrations
- Aliko Dangote, doing well and doing good for Africa. Dangote is one of the richest men in Africa who also dedicates his time to ridding countries of infectious diseases.
“This year, Nigeria is on pace for its lowest number of polio cases ever. Aliko is a big reason why” –Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Robert Lanza, in the vanguard of stem-cell research. Dr. Lanza is the chief scientific officer at the biotech firm Advanced Cell Technology, and found a way to turn adult cells into stem cells that may soon be turned into new treatments, or cures, for diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
“The controversies may continue, but thanks to Lanza the science will too.” –Alice Park, health and medicine writer for TIME and author of The Stem Cell Hope
- José Mujica, the revolutionary who legalized pot. As Uruguay’s president, José “Pepe” Mujica signed a law making the country the first to legalize the production and sale of marijuana.
“Uruguay has embarked on a bold and fascinating experiment that will be closely watched by supporters of legalization in other countries–including myself” –Meghan McCain, co-host of Pivot’s TakePart Live
- Arunachalam Muruganantham, an unlikely health crusader. Muruganantham designed a simple machine to make sanitary napkins after seeing how hard it was for his wife to get access to affordable ones.
“The invention has sparked interest around the world. It’s a truism for a reason: Empathy is the most revolutionary emotion” –Ruchira Gupta, founder of Apne Aap, an Indian anti-sex-trafficking organization
- David Sinclair, bringing us closer to reversing aging. Sinclair is a genetics professor at Harvard Medical School who discovered a compound that makes old cells act young again.
“Immortality is out of reach, but living more years with a body that’s robust enough to make the most of them is a real possibility” –Dr. David Agus, professor of medicine and author of A Short Guide to a Long Life
- Alice Waters, pioneer of good food for all. As a respected chef, Waters promotes accessible produce for everyone, including for the youngest eaters, with the Edible Schoolyard Project.
“She proved the power of a chef, showing an entire generation that one passionate person can reshape the eating habits of a nation” --Ruth Reichl, a food writer whose first novel, Delicious!, will be published in May
Beyoncé graces the cover of this year’s TIME 100 issue and she’s made TIME.com the first official outlet to show her “Pretty Hurts” video. The latest clip from her fifth, self-titled studio album strives to explore the definition of pretty. Starting today, Beyoncé asks you to join the conversation. How do you define pretty? Upload a photo or video to Instagram tagged #WhatIsPretty that captures what the word means to you. Visit WhatIsPretty.com for additional details.
Whether you’re in the stadium cheering like crazy for them, or sitting on the couch screaming in disbelief because someone just pulled off the seemingly impossible, great athletes can inspire you. They can move you. Sometimes even to tears.MoreThe Green Heroes of the TIME 100By the Numbers: Women of the 2014 TIME 100Men Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostAmerican Idol: Caleb Johnson Has the Moment of the Night People
The influence of the five athletes in the 2014 TIME 100 extends far beyond the playing field. Jason Collins, center for the Brooklyn Nets, finished the 2013-2014 NBA season averaging 1.1 points and 0.9 rebounds per game. Despite the unimpressive stats, he’s a pioneer. This year Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in a major U.S. sports league. “Jason has always maintained that he’s first a basketball player,” writes Chelsea Clinton, Collins’ Stanford classmate, in the TIME 100 issue. “He is. But he’s also a leader and inspiration.”
Richard Sherman, of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, isn’t just the best shutdown cornerback in the NFL. His smack-talking rant during a post-game interview, immediately following the NFC championship game, sparked a national conversation about race, stereotyping, and sportsmanship. Critics were quick to label the dreadlocked star a “thug.” But Sherman, a Stanford grad raised in Compton, Calif., engaged in the debate — most athletes flee social questions — and wondered if that term is really today’s way of calling him the N word. In a heartbeart, Sherman altered the discourse.
Serena Williams is back on the list — she last made the TIME 100 in 2010 — which is a testament to her staying power. Williams is still the number one player in the world. Remember, years ago, when skeptics wondered if she was focused enough on tennis, given her passion for fashion and other interests? Plenty of tennis stars burned out. Serena remains a dominant force — and a joy to watch.
“Serena is a warrior,” writes her friend, Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade. “An aggressive and competitive nature combined with passion, drive and skill make her a formidable and fierce opponent.”
The young golf phenom Lydia Ko, who turns 17 today, has the potential to help grow the women’s game around the world. “She is responsible for sparking increased interest in our sport not just in her native South Korea and adopted homeland of New Zealand but also among juniors across the globe,” writes eight-time LPGA player of the year Annika Sorenstam.
Around a billion people watched the 2010 World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands. Soccer’s influence exceeds its beauty. This summer in Brazil, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal — the world’s best player — will try to lead his country to its first-ever appearance in the championship match. “I wish him the best this summer at the World Cup in Brazil,” writes Pelé. “But if Portugal goes to the final against Brazil, I’m sorry, Cristiano, but I want to Brazil to win.”
Pelé will be cheering. And the world will be watching, enjoying the kind of shared cultural experience that sports, and sports alone, can deliver.
Miley Cyrus is no Shinzo Abe, but that doesn’t mean the pop stars on this year’s TIME 100 don’t get political. In fact, the one thing this year’s most influential pop artists have in common is a shared interest in women’s rights. But Beyoncé, Miley and Pharrell aren’t just accidental feminists — they’ve actively promoted women’s empowerment through their songs, videos, and interviews, making feminism a explicit part of their respective public images. With their help, this was the year of pop feminism.MoreThe Green Heroes of the TIME 100By the Numbers: Women of the 2014 TIME 100Men Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostAmerican Idol: Caleb Johnson Has the Moment of the Night People
(It’s worth noting that Carrie Underwood also made the list of top musicians, but her domination last year wasn’t about the monolithic chart saturation that made the other three so significant. She’s also shied away from identifying herself as a feminist : the star of NBC’s record-breaking live production of The Sound of Music has said she “wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a feminist, that can come off as a negative connotation” — though she insists she’s “certainly a strong woman.”)Popular Among Subscribers Barbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness Subscribe Shinzo Abe: The PatriotThe Blindness of Bigotry
For the three on the list who had blockbuster releases — Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus and Pharrell Williams — feminism is the new frontier, a realm that demands exploration. For the former two, they aren’t considered feminists just because they’re influential women; it’s a central component of their work. You could even say that feminism is to 2014 pop stars what sex was to 1964 rockers: it’s nothing new, but it’s suddenly become electrifying.
Queen Bey is the most obvious example. Her surprise video album was the biggest music story of 2013 (and the fastest-selling album in iTunes history), but it wasn’t just the marketing genius that drove it to the top of the Billboard charts. The overtly feminist videos spoke directly to a generation working to embrace female self-empowerment as a political and social priority. There was nothing screechy about Beyoncé’s message. She presents stylishly nuanced ideas about beauty in “Pretty Hurts,” love in “Drunk in Love” and motherhood in “Blue,” and even includes a lengthy quote from Nigerian feminist author Chimamanda Adichie in “Flawless.”
Beyoncé rarely says the word “feminist,” but she lets Adichie define it as “a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” That definition happens right in the middle of her song. Show me another pop star who interrupts their singing to quote some social theory, and I’ll strip down and climb onto a wrecking ball.
Miley Cyrus is a different story. Pop’s most controversial diva had lots of moms tut-tutting about her twerking at the VMAs and lots of critics outraged at her racial politics, but she says her post-Disney schtick embraces a new kind of female sexuality that has nothing to do with what men want. When’s the last time you saw a foam finger in porn? Never.
If Beyoncé used feminism as the new sex, Miley insists she’s using sex as a form of feminism. “I’m one of the biggest feminists in the world because I tell women not to be scared of anything,” she told BBC’s Newsbeat. “I don’t actually walk around all day twerking with my tongue out dressed as a teddy bear.” For Miley, her nudity in “Wrecking Ball” was never about objectification — it was about fearlessness. Whether you agree with her or not, she’s certainly outspoken about her beliefs.
Pharrell’s LP G I R L might seem only superficially feminist in that it’s roughly a concept album in praise of women, but the hat-loving Oscar nominee has been publicly dedicating his new hit album to modern women in a string of interviews. And while the nod might sound condescending coming from a co-creator of “Blurred Lines” (a song known as much for its problematic intimations as it is for being catchy), Pharrell actually gets real about feminist politics when he talks to the media. “[Women] don’t get paid as much as men do — that needs to change,” he said in an interview on Good Morning America. “We’re a species that has a Martian rover on the surface of Mars, but yet we’re still the same species that tries to tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies.” That’s a clear feminist statement — and one that not all male artists would be willing to make.
He’s also got some opinions about the 2016 Presidential election. “Let me tell you why Hillary’s going to win,” he told GQ. “when you think about a night where there’s late-night talk-show hosts and it’s mostly women, that’s a different world. Right? A world where seventy-five percent of the prime ministers and the presidents were women: That’s a different world. That’s gonna happen, and it’s gonna happen when Hillary wins.”
Pharrell might not have Beyoncé’s nuance or Miley’s boldness, but he represents a brand of pop feminism that’s not just for women anymore. And even if his dedication to women’s issues feels reductive (and some argue, fairly, that men shouldn’t need a gold star for believing in equality), it’s still a sign that feminism is pop’s politics du jour, and it’s not by accident.
Sure, this was the year where feminism and pop intersected in a big way — and maybe that’s made the discussion fashionable. But who cares? It’s moving the conversation forward, so girls — and the men who respect them — actually can run the world.
He keeps it simple and brief, but legendary actor, director, producer, businessman, environmentalist, philanthropist, and founder of the Sundance Film Festival Robert Redford offers some invaluable advice for anyone who wants to follow in his footsteps. (Hint: It doesn’t require the backing of a major studio or even a WiFi connection.)
Redford, 77, has won two Academy Awards — in 1981 for directing Ordinary People, and in 2002 for Lifetime Achievement. His Sundance Institute is celebrating the 30-year anniversary of the Sundance Film Festival, held each January in Park City, Utah.
When considering who most influenced his life, Robert Redford, who has performed with Hollywood’s finest and mentored independent cinema’s rising stars, cites a “mixed bag” of people who helped him along the way.
“There is power in an idea that you will stay with, against the odds,” he tells TIME Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs in this short interview. Whether it’s called ego or drive or stubbornness or vision, Redford endorses the impulse to “keep pushing through” in spite of the obstacles. Even failure, he notes, can be valuable, even “fun.”
With Washington, D.C. mired in partisan gridlock, the nation’s political power centers have shifted outside the nation’s capital to statehouses and boardrooms across the country. That migration is reflected in this year’s TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people, where alongside must-mention names like President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are Edward Snowden, Jerry Brown, and Scott Walker.MoreThe Green Heroes of the TIME 100By the Numbers: Women of the 2014 TIME 100Men Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostAmerican Idol: Caleb Johnson Has the Moment of the Night People
The admitted National Security Agency leaker and Time Person of the Year runner-up is one of several political figures making their debut on the list. Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists, philanthropists, and Republican donors, and Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist and Democratic donor, earned spots on account of the growing influence of outside political campaign spending on American politics.
Brown, the Democratic California governor who has worked to right his state’s finances, is an established figure on the political stage but eschews the nation’s capital. Republican up-and-comers like Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, and Sen. Rand Paul, are both eyeing runs at the White House built on a disdain for the way business is done in Washington. And New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has built a name for herself taking on the Pentagon and other lawmakers in an effort to reform the way the military handles cases of sexual assault.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes the list yet again, as her consideration of a repeat bid for the presidency locks up the Democratic field and keeps the nation waiting. Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the outspoken officer twice-passed over for promotion, made the list because of his willingness to challenge the military’s conventional thinking. He will soon take over the Army’s command focused on designing the service’s future.
Here is the full list of politicos and the authors of the profiles:
California Gov. Jerry Brown by former California Gov. Gray Davis
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by Malala Yousafzai
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) by former New York Sen. Alfonse D’Amato
Attorney General Eric Holder by Rep. John Lewis
Secretary of State John Kerry by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
David and Charles Koch by Karl Rove
Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster by Lt. Gen. Dave Barno (Ret.)
President Barack Obama by Joe Klein
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Edward Snowden by Daniel Domscheit-Berg
Tom Steyer by former Vice President Al Gore
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen by International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde
The TIME 100 is a list of the world’s most influential men and women, not its most powerful, though those are not mutually exclusive terms. Power, as we’ve seen this year, can be crude and implacable, from Vladimir Putin’s mugging of Crimea to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s summary execution of his uncle and mentor Jang Song Thaek. Those men made our list, but they are the outliers, and not just because we generally seek to celebrate the best work of the human spirit. The vast majority of this year’s roster reveals that while power is certain, influence is subtle. Power is a tool, influence is a skill; one is a fist, the other a fingertip. You don’t lead by hitting people over the head, Dwight Eisenhower used to say. That’s “assault, not leadership.”MoreRobert Redford’s Protip for Aspiring AuteursRobert Redford Almost Gave Up ActingMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostSurprise - Lake Bell Is Pregnant! People
The 2014 list includes a record number of women: 41. It features people born on six continents, ranging in age from 16 to 78. We feature not just inventors but also reinventors, people who acquired expertise in one field and are now transplanting it to another. Microsoft mogul turned philanthropist Bill Gates (a four-time TIME 100 honoree) writes about the efforts of Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote to fight polio in Africa. Harvey Weinstein (TIME 100 2012) writes of actor Robert Redford’s influence over a generation of directors as the Sundance Film Festival marks its 30th year. On the court, Jason Collins is not a huge basketball star, but he has already claimed his place in civil rights history as the first openly gay athlete to play in one of the four major U.S. sports leagues.
In many cases, the profiles are less appraisals than appreciations, written by friends, admirers and mentors, which means this issue invites you to join the conversation. With an assist from the latest Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance, politically minded billionaires may wield more influence than ever—but that does not mean conservatives will embrace Al Gore’s tribute to Tom Steyer or liberals will love Karl Rove’s piece on the Brothers Koch. Readers can debate whether Edward Snowden is a hero or a traitor, whether Carl Icahn is a shareholder prophet or a corporate pest, whether Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is a force for change or a threat to peace, whether Miley Cyrus is a genius or a toxin, but it’s hard to deny the influence they have had.
To assemble the list, we rely on our journalists around the world and our TIME 100 alumni (many of whom are as influential as ever). Somehow, each year the group grows ever more interconnected: when we asked Colin Firth (2011) to write about Benedict Cumberbatch, his first reaction was to recall his early acting days when he worked with Cumberbatch’s parents. Gabrielle Giffords (2011 and 2013) wrote about Malala Yousafzai, who wrote about Hillary Clinton, who wrote about John Kerry. Both of last year’s breakthrough albums from Miley Cyrus and Beyoncé featured tracks produced by Pharrell Williams—who now has his own breakthrough album.
If there is a common theme in many of the tributes, it’s the eagerness to see what some engineer, actor, leader or athlete will do next. As much as this exercise chronicles the achievements of the past year, we also focus on figures whose influence is likely to grow, so we can look around the corner to see what is coming. So join us for this journey, and visit time.com/time100 to hear more of the story behind the stories.
The first man on the moon was a character in popular culture decades—even centuries, perhaps—before Neil Armstrong actually filled the role. The assumption was that humanity would reach the moon someday, and it was simply a given that the first historic step would indeed be taken by a man. “This country should commit itself, before this decade is out,” President Kennedy declared in 1961, “to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” There was no need for the gender-neutral “landing a person on the moon,” no clumsy “and returning him or her safely to the Earth.” Astronauts were supposed to be men and they jolly well would be.
But only until they weren’t. The boys-only rule ended fast, just two years later, when the Soviet Union sent Valentina Tereshkova (slide 18) into orbit for a flight that lasted just minutes shy of three full days. In the half century since Tereshkova’s flight, 57 other women have strapped in and blasted off, representing nine different countries—most recently China. The U.S. did not join the space sorority until 1983, when Sally Ride flew, but America made up for that dallying, sending a total of 45 women into space since then. 2014 TIME 100 honoree Kathryn Sullivan (slide 1) was the first American woman to space walk. Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, a crew member on five space shuttle missions and a former resident of the International Space Station, is now a three-star lieutenant general in the United States Air Force. They have faced the same challenges as the men, experienced the same thrills as the men and, on occasion, paid the same price as the men. Four women—Christa McAulliffe, Judith Resnik, Laurel Clark, and Kalpana Chawla—died in the Challenger and Columbia disasters.
The U.S. space program is now in a state of drift, with no American vehicle currently capable of carrying human beings to space, and NASA thus dependent on the Russians to ferry our crews up to the International Space Station—at a cost of $70 million per seat. But China—as in so many other things—is a rising power in space and on June 11, sent its second female astronaut, Wang Yaping, into orbit on what is just the country’s fifth crewed mission. She was preceded last year by Liu Yang.
There was less global hoopla when Yang flew than when Ride did, and much less than when Tereshkova did. The fact that human beings travel in space continues to be—and should be—something that delights and even surprises us. The fact that women are among those explorers is, at last, becoming routine.