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Thursday, 17 May 2007 20:30

Controversy with Mercury 13 women


There seems to be some controversy with the recent media articles about the Mercury 13 women and what happened to them, supposedly, by NASA.

The following story was submitted to ITWire:

“Mercury 13” women honored with honorary doctorates at Wisconsin

Eight of the remaining “Mercury 13” female pilots who trained to become astronauts when the United States was a fledgling space-faring country in the 1960s received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. They never flew for NASA after the U.S. federal government ended their training.

Dr. William Randolph Lovelace was developing tests for NASA in order to qualify male pilots for jobs as astronauts. In 1960, Lovelace invited Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb to undergo these tests to see how women would perform. She was known as a Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainee (FLAT).

Cobb became the first woman to pass all three phases of testing. Consequently, Lovelace expanded his testing of women, including many women from the Ninety-Nines, a women pilot’s organization.

Thirteen women passed the same physical examinations, as did the original Mercury 7 astronauts: Scott Carpenter, Gordon “Gordo” Cooper, John Glenn, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Donald “Deke” Slayton.

The Mercury 13 women are: Myrtle Cagle, Jerrie Cobb, Jan Dietrich, Marion Dietrich, Wally Funk, Janey Hart, Jean Hixson, Gene Nora Stumbough, Irene Leverton, Bernice Steadman, Sarah Ratley, Jerri Truhill, and Rhea Woltman.

However, their testing was suddenly cancelled. Cobb attempted to have the testing program resumed when she wrote the President of the United States (Kennedy) and visited with the Vice President (Johnson).

A special public hearing before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives was held on the topic of gender discrimination concerning the thirteen women. Because NASA required that all astronauts be graduates of military jet test piloting programs and have engineering degrees, none of the women qualified as NASA astronauts.

Thus, no action resulted from the subcommittee meeting.

The U.S.S.R. sent the first woman into space on June 16, 1963, when Valentina Tereshkova flew aboard Vostok 6. The United States waited twenty years longer before sending a woman into space.

On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first U.S. women to fly in space when she flew onboard the Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-7).

On February 3, 1995, Eileen Collins became the first woman to pilot a Space Shuttle (Discovery) during STS-63. She also became the first woman to command a Space Shuttle mission during STS-93 on July 23, 1999 aboard Columbia.

Recently, a campaign was held by the National Organization for Women (NOW) to send Cobb into space to investigate the effects of aging on women—similar to the study performed by 77-year-old John Glenn in 1998 aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-95).

The website of the Mercury 13 is: http://www.mercury13.com/.

Comment by a reader follows:

Name: JimO
Title: You guys are such saps for lying left-wing propaganda....
Text: Now that I have your attention ... get a reality check on the real story at "The Mercury 13: setting the story straight, " posted May 14, http://www.thespacereview.com/article/869/1\r\n\r\n
Like, there was no training, it was private medical screening, NASA never knew about it until the doctor wanted to use their charge number for some Navy flight equipment, he was told to get lost. Like, no white male with equivalent flight experience would have made even the first cut in the selection process (sadly because of some military cultural barriers, since dropped -- but nothing to do with NASA). Like, the Soviets flew a woman as a stunt to impress the weak-minded (look how well it worked and is still working), while women remained essentially locked out of their space program except as needed for follow-up stunts, while American women have become fully integrated into the space program at all levels. That's the happy ending that whiners like this university (and journalists who so eagerly fall for and pass on the bogus press releases) want to distract from. Shame on them all.

Comment by author:

I like to think of myself as impartial. I report stories I think are interesting. However, after reading the Jim Oberg article (“The Mercury 13: setting the story straight”) in The Space Review (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/869/1\r\n\r\n), I agree that many of the facts in these numerous articles, including mine, seem to be biased in favor of these Mercury 13 women and against NASA.

I think these thirteen women believed themselves to have potential to become NASA astronauts. NASA didn’t, according to already established rules set up by the agency. These women did not have the qualifications to become NASA astronauts. Neither did the vast majority of white males at that time.

As with any story, there are several sides to tell. Unfortunately, some sides are not told by the media, which is a shame.

Please read the Jim Oberg article and the other articles about the Mercury 13 women. See what you think!


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