The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight
In 1961, just as NASA launched its first man into space, a group of women underwent secret testing in the hopes of becoming America’s first female astronauts. They passed the same battery of tests at the legendary Lovelace Foundation as did the Mercury 7 astronauts, but they were summarily dismissed by the boys’ club at NASA and on Capitol Hill. The USSR sent its first woman into space in 1963; the United States did not follow suit for another twenty years.
For the first time, Martha Ackmann tells the story of the dramatic events surrounding these thirteen remarkable women, all crackerjack pilots and patriots who sometimes sacrificed jobs and marriages for a chance to participate in America’s space race against the Soviet Union. In addition to talking extensively to these women, Ackmann interviewed Chuck Yeager, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, and others at NASA and in the White House with firsthand knowledge of the program, and includes here never-before-seen photographs of the Mercury 13 passing their Lovelace tests.
Despite the crushing disappointment of watching their dreams being derailed, the Mercury 13 went on to extraordinary achievement in their lives: Jerrie Cobb, who began flying when she was so small she had to sit on pillows to see out of the cockpit, dedicated her life to flying solo missions to the Amazon rain forest; Wally Funk, who talked her way into the Lovelace trials, went on to become one of the first female FAA investigators; Janey Hart, mother of eight and, at age forty, the oldest astronaut candidate, had the political savvy to steer the women through congressional hearings and later helped found the National Organization for Women.
A provocative tribute to these extraordinary women, The Mercury 13 is an unforgettable story of determination, resilience, and inextinguishable hope.
From the Hardcover edition.
Wonderful detail, but not the best book on the subject.
By Science Designer - February 1, 2008
I am an admirer of this fascinatingly readable, lucid and scholarly book, with some very interesting stories of intriguing people. However I found a much superior assessment of the "Mercury 13" program in Burgess and French's book Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961-1965 (Outward Odyssey: A People's History of S). In one extraordinary chapter, they capture the true cultural, historical and social context of this program far better than this entire book-length treatment. They also contrast the Soviet women in space program against American efforts far better.
Nevertheless, I would still recommend this book as a very interesting read into a fascinating time in American history, and congratulate the author on her impressive research, including the fullest personal interviewing with the original candidates ever undertaken.
An amazing story.
By Scott E. Sommer - June 3, 2003
Whether you're a fan of America's space program or simply in need of a great read, do yourself a favor and invest in this book. A little over forty years ago -- when our first astronauts were flying high and America was racing the Soviets for space dominance -- a group of two dozen women signed on to take the same tests and training program as the fabled Mercury 7 (John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, etc). These tests were outlined by Tom Wolfe in THE RIGHT STUFF, and have gone down in historical lore as punishing and exacting, but they are nothing compared to what happened to the women next.Martha Ackmann's breezy prose and ironic wit are on display here, and she handles the story of these heroic women in an engaging, unbiased way that practically makes the book turn its own pages. I couldn't put it down, and neither will you. Highly recommended.
All systems go!
By S. A. Cartwright "Stu Cartwright" - June 19, 2003
Here's a book that has potential to fuel a few debates. Written by Martha Ackmann, a professor of Women's Studies at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, the topic hits an unexpected intersection of interests: Early days of manned space flight at NASA, and women's rights.Most readers won't have heard of The Mercury 13, an unofficial group of stalwart women airplane pilots, all tested for potential to become astronauts by the private Lovelace Foundation at the dawn of the space race. While national focus lasered on Alan Shepherd, John Glenn, and the rest of the famous and flamboyant Mercury 7 astronauts who flew the first orbital missions, Jerrie Cobb and her compatriot lady flyers quietly matched, and sometimes surpassed, the test results of the male heros. Accomplished flyers, and businesswomen, the individuals of this group held many aeronautical records and won many air derbys. Some were graduates of the WAC programs of the Second World War, spearheaded by Jackie Cochran... read more