A solidly researched book on the first American women in space, including some new stories you won’t find elsewhere. There were six women out of the 1978 astronaut class of thirty-five, and the women got all the attention, sometimes to the men’s disgruntlement. Although some of them must have been grateful when they saw the unrelenting crush of public attention Ride endured when she got back from STS-7. I loved the story of Ride and Svetlana Savitskaya, and that later Ride was the one person on the Challenger Commission trusted enough to leak the test info on the O-rings that failed, because the leaker (to this day unidentified) knew she would do what was right. I remember watching Richard Feynman do that ice water experiment with the O-rings that conclusively proved what caused the Challenger to explode. I never knew the backstory until now.
But these six women were every one extraordinary astronauts who all flew and set records and the whole story is fascinating, including all the outrageous stuff, the casual misogyny, like NASA not letting the women astronauts fly PIC in the training jets, and that time the aviation engineer assumed they all had their licenses and let them fly his test aircraft.
Every single astronaut class since the historic one of 1978 has included women, with more recent selections comprising a nearly equal number of men and women candidates…Eileen Collins made history in 1995 when she became the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle. She also became the first female commander of a Shuttle mission in 1999.
I was there to watch that 1995 launch in person, and I wept when I heard them say “Go at throttle up.” But nowadays, in spite of Challenger and Discovery, we don’t even blink when a woman astronaut flies to the ISS.
As it should be.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.