From what I remember, the astronaut made first contact with a race of felines that live on the other side of the Galaxy. They had always been able to see Earth, but Earth couldn't see them because they were blocked by the Sun. There are various corporations that do drilling on various asteroids and the feline race helps in saving someone, or stopping an explosion at one of these complexes.

After this (possibly in a second book) she comes back to Earth and is the ambassador to the feline race because they know her. This is upsetting for her because she had worked so hard to become an astronaut, but had a very short career because of this incident. She ends up getting some sort of connection with them, and takes on some of their characteristics.

I think this connection followed some sort of either transformation or psychic episode they were able to induce in her on their ship, where she was able to see what it was like to be one of them. The alien technology is way more advanced than the human, and they are stronger and faster as well.

A final note, I recall the female astronaut having red hair.

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    I don't remember the exact reasoning the book gave for why that was the case. It may have had something to do with the positioning in relation to distance, but it was a minor point, the idea was just that Earth was unaware of them, but they were always aware of Earth. – aaron Jay Aug 23 '18 at 7:11
  • There's a bunch of story-ID questions featuring feline aliens, you might want to take a look - even if some of them aren't answered, maybe you're looking for one of these and it might remind you of other details :) – Jenayah Aug 23 '18 at 8:31
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    Thank you Jenayah! I checked all the feline alien ones and didn't find it, but I clicked on a question about a female fighter pilot and it was in one of the answers. First Flight by Chris Claremont goodreads.com/series/109811-nicole-shea – aaron Jay Aug 23 '18 at 8:42
  • @aaron Jay - You say that the aliens live "on the other side of the galaxy" and then say that "Earth couldn't see them because they were blocked by the Sun" - suggesting that you are confusing two vastly different scales. A counter Earth always on the far side of the Sun would by definition always be two Astronomical Units (AUs) from Earth. A light year is 63,241.077 AUs, and the center of the galaxy is about 26,000 light years, or 1,644,268,000 AUs, from Earth, so the other side of the galaxy is about 1,000,000,000 times farther away than the other side of the sun. – M. A. Golding Aug 23 '18 at 11:42
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    M. A. Golding, I am just trying to recall what I remember from a book I read probably 10 years ago, I'm not trying to be scientifically accurate..... – aaron Jay Aug 23 '18 at 21:36

First Flight by Chris Claremont from the Nicole Shea series.

After Lt. Shea fails a simulation test, she is given a second chance. She is to play pilot to a minimal-hassle scientific mission which turns out to be mankind's first contact with alien life.

The reviews for the book mention the main character, Nicole Shea, was an astronaut or Outer Space Air Force pilot.

Any comic book or sci-fi fan will enjoy the references to stuff scattered throughout this fast-paced riveting tale of a female astronaut's first venture into the inky depths of space. Claremont is no stranger to writing strong female characters and it shines in this story. The magnificent tolerance and inclusiveness of other cultures and lifestyles that pervaded his comic writing also translates magnificently to novel format.

First Flight review, Dragondreamsjen

I ended up finding the answer in another post about a female fighter pilot.

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  • Do you have a link to the other post? Could you edit in some information about this such as a synopsis or similar? – TheLethalCarrot Aug 23 '18 at 8:47
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    Glad you found it! :) Please make sure to accept your post by clicking in the checkmark button, you should be able to do in ~42 hours. Cheers! – Jenayah Aug 23 '18 at 8:48
  • Here is the link to the other post, it also has pictures of the cover of all 3 books in the series in the answer. scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/171711/… – aaron Jay Aug 23 '18 at 21:33

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