Women with the Right Stuff

Via the Daily Mail: In the early 60s, 13 women undertook secret tests at Nasa to see if they could become astronauts. Were it not for rules which prevented them from flying missions, the first woman in space could have been an American.

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Seven members of the Mercury 13 are pictured in front of the space shuttle in 1995. From L to R: Gene Nora Jessen, Wally Funk, Jerrie Cobb, Jerrie Truhill, Sarah Rutley, Myrtle Cagle and Bernice Steadman

Funk was America’s first female Federal Aviation Administration inspector and it was her skills as a pilot that, in 1961, led her to become one of 13 women who passed secret medical tests to become an astronaut.
The Mercury 13, as they are now known, undertook the same tough mental and physical tests as the famous silver-suited Mercury 7.

Those latter all-American heroes included John Glenn and played an important part in the space race against the Soviet Union, eventually placing a man on the Moon.

The Mercury 7 tests, memorably detailed in Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff (later a film), pushed the men to their physical limits. The doctor who devised them, William Randolph Lovelace, was also head of Nasa’s Special Committee on Bioastronautics.

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About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
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