Author Topic: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight  (Read 4576 times)


Offline Dana

  • Regular
  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 442
  • Liked: 2
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #1 on: 05/15/2007 04:47 AM »
Very clear article. I wish more people could read it. I've heard that whole Mercury 13 story a lot over the years, including on Space Cowboy Saloon: how a baker's-dozen "equally-qualified women who passed all the tests," etc. were shorted by the big bad NASA Old Boy network-what an eyeball-roller, seriously.

It's the "equal flight experience" thing that they can never figure out. They see a male USAF/Navy/Marine pilot with, say, 1,500 total hours and one of the Mercury 13 with 1,500 total hours, and somehow, it never seems to register with certain members of the press and the occasional strident feminist that 1,500 hours putt-putting around in Cessnas and Cubs and the odd jet ride in a T-Bird DOES NOT EQUAL 1,500 hours in Sabres, Panthers, F-84s and Banshees in Korea, testing Century Series jets at Edwards, a couple of hundred carrier landings including many in jets that have never landed on a carrier before, cat shots and night traps in combat conditions, etc. IT AIN'T THE SAME!
"Don't play dumb with me! You're not as good at it as I am!"-Col. Flagg

"'Second Place' is just the first loser."-Bobby Allison

Offline CFE

  • Extreme Veteran
  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 722
  • Liked: 1
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #2 on: 05/16/2007 03:07 AM »
The fact that the Mercury 13 didn't get to fly is merely a reflection of society at that time.  Although they were among the most accomplished aviatices of their day, women weren't able to gain the relevant experience that was required to meet the standards for being an astronaut.  Shame on Dr. Lovelace for ever getting their hopes up.  Perhaps with the advent of space tourism, the surviving members of the Mercury 13 will be able to get a suborbital ride on SpaceShipTwo or Rocketplane XP.

Jim Oberg did a great public service (as usual) through his timely report.  People who want to use the Mercury 13 as a weapon for bashing NASA should instead praise NASA for opening its ranks in 1978, and ensuring that female astronauts would become a routine part of the space program, instead of being used for Soviet-era stunts.
"Black Zones" never stopped NASA from flying the shuttle.

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10990
  • Liked: 2459
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #3 on: 05/16/2007 01:35 PM »
Quote
Shame on Dr. Lovelace for ever getting their hopes up.

I don't see how he did anything wrong at all.  Is there any evidence that he deserves to be shamed?

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10990
  • Liked: 2459
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #4 on: 05/16/2007 01:39 PM »
Quote
Jim Oberg did a great public service (as usual) through his timely report.  People who want to use the Mercury 13 as a weapon for bashing NASA should instead praise NASA for opening its ranks in 1978, and ensuring that female astronauts would become a routine part of the space program, instead of being used for Soviet-era stunts.

Well, let's not overpraise Jim's piece.  Margaret Weitekamp wrote a book on the M13 quite awhile ago.  The truth has been out there, it's just lazy people who have not looked for it.

And NASA's record on this is actually pretty good.  The statistics indicate that there are more women astronauts than women pilots in either commercial or military aviation.  However, it's also worth noting that astronaut and pilot are not equivalent.  Astronauts are often scientists and technicians, so there should be a comparison with those fields.  But the agency made some positive decisions in the 1970s.

Offline E_ E_ H

  • Fascinated
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 396
  • Southampton, UK
  • Liked: 0
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #5 on: 05/16/2007 01:40 PM »
Good article that. It's interesting towards the end too when it talks of the limitations of Russian vehicles.
Ground control to Major Chris....

Online FutureSpaceTourist

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4453
  • UK
    • Plan 28
  • Liked: 3018
  • Likes Given: 1001
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #6 on: 11/21/2017 03:44 PM »
Bump due to Amazon developing the Mercury 13 story as a mini-series:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=44279.0

Offline Anu

  • Member
  • Member
  • Posts: 81
  • Liked: 4
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #7 on: 11/28/2017 02:31 PM »
Whilst I agree with the overall gist of what James Oberg is saying in relation to the "Mercury 13" in the 2007 article, he is somewhat harsh on describing Svetlana Savitskaya's cosmonaut status as being due to being a senior officer's daughter. Savitskaya may have had opportunities through her father's connections and status that enabled her to do nearly 500 parachute jumps and a stratospheric skydive from nearly 50 000 ft before her 18th birthday, but she clearly had natural talent as a pilot, having set several time-to-height records in the Ye-266 Mig -25 prototype and as a world aerobatics champion before becoming a cosmonaut.  She performed well on her two Soyuz missions and was universally respected in the cosmonaut corps, as far as I can tell.

Update on numbers - there are now 4 flown female Soviet/Russian cosmonauts......still staggeringly low.
« Last Edit: 11/30/2017 09:37 AM by Anu »

Offline WallE

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 172
  • Liked: 30
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #8 on: 12/04/2017 09:49 AM »
Update on numbers - there are now 4 flown female Soviet/Russian cosmonauts......still staggeringly low.

Svetlana Savitskaya was flown in part because the Soviets knew we were going to launch a woman on a Shuttle flight and they needed some quick one upmanship over the US. Aside from her family connections, she was (and still is) a committed believer in communism, so that certainly couldn't have hurt her mission chances. Yelena Kondakova and Yelena Serova both had connections to the space program that allowed them to get a mission. Russia is a country that is still very much in the 1950s on gender relations; despite Valentina Tereskhova being officially considered a national hero, postflight reports and official histories of the Soviet space program made various derogatory and borderline misogynistic comments about her (her performance on Vostok 6 was not all that great, truth be told).

As for the Mercury program, one had to be a military test pilot and absolutely no women would have met those qualifications. The American public would have also been outraged if a woman had died in an accident like Apollo 1 and it probably would result in the cancellation of the program. It wasn't a viable idea to fly women in space until the Shuttle era when multi-person crews became a thing and female astronauts could serve as mission specialists or other non-piloting areas.
« Last Edit: 12/04/2017 12:28 PM by WallE »

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10990
  • Liked: 2459
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #9 on: 12/04/2017 02:47 PM »
It wasn't a viable idea to fly women in space until the Shuttle era when multi-person crews became a thing and female astronauts could serve as mission specialists or other non-piloting areas.

No. Remember that scientist-astronauts were discussed in the 1960s. There were apparently at least a few women scientists considered very early on in the application process, but they got ruled out. I think there is still more to be discovered about the early discussions of the scientist-astronaut program. It's entirely feasible that a female scientist could have flown on Apollo.


Offline WallE

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 172
  • Liked: 30
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #10 on: 12/04/2017 03:35 PM »
Remember that scientist-astronauts were discussed in the 1960s. There were apparently at least a few women scientists considered very early on in the application process, but they got ruled out. I think there is still more to be discovered about the early discussions of the scientist-astronaut program. It's entirely feasible that a female scientist could have flown on Apollo.

In theory they could have flown women astronauts on an AAP mission if AAP hadn't been truncated. In fact they also considered signing an African-American astronaut in 1966, but in both cases it waited until the astronaut class of 1978, which was after the social changes of the 60s-70s made it more acceptable.

You have to remember that in the Mercury days, NASA were also absurdly strict with micromanaging the astronauts' personal lives and they all had to be upstanding, married, churchgoing family men because that was just the cultural norm in America at that time. By the time Apollo 13 flew, they were more willing to tolerate Jack Swigert's bachelor lifestyle.

So it was partially cultural norms/prejudices and partially space travel being the great unknown that only experienced test pilots could be trusted with.

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10990
  • Liked: 2459
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #11 on: 12/04/2017 06:12 PM »
You have to remember that in the Mercury days, NASA were also absurdly strict with micromanaging the astronauts' personal lives and they all had to be upstanding, married, churchgoing family men because that was just the cultural norm in America at that time.

How did that work out?

Offline WallE

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 172
  • Liked: 30
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #12 on: 12/04/2017 06:36 PM »
How did that work out

Tough especially with the media spotlight and training/missions that required astronauts to spend literal months away from their families. Three of the Mercury Seven ended up getting divorced, the rest stayed with their wives for the rest of their life. Everyone's probably heard how Gus Grissom had a home built in Houston with no front windows to keep reporters from looking inside.

Also when Scott Carpenter flew, LIFE Magazine ran a full cover story showing pics of Carpenter and his family taken as NASA PR to portray him as the all-American dad. That was very much the image NASA wanted to project of its astronauts, and in retrospect it seems faintly comical considering that he ended up being married four times.
« Last Edit: 12/04/2017 11:29 PM by WallE »

Offline zubenelgenubi

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1181
  • Arc to Arcturus, then Spike to Spica
  • Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Liked: 251
  • Likes Given: 733
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #13 on: 12/04/2017 08:23 PM »
It wasn't a viable idea to fly women in space until the Shuttle era when multi-person crews became a thing and female astronauts could serve as mission specialists or other non-piloting areas.

No. Remember that scientist-astronauts were discussed in the 1960s. There were apparently at least a few women scientists considered very early on in the application process, but they got ruled out. I think there is still more to be discovered about the early discussions of the scientist-astronaut program. It's entirely feasible that a female scientist could have flown on Apollo. [Zubenelgenubi's bold]

More specifically: Astronaut Group 4, 1965 "The Scientists" and Group 6, 1967 "XS-11."

EDIT: Yes, scientist-astronauts had to successfully learn to fly jets (become high-performance pilots) before they could begin further candidate training.  Jackie Cochran flew jets.

(Jackie Cochran initially supported the Mercury 13, and later used her influence against it/them.)
« Last Edit: 12/04/2017 08:58 PM by zubenelgenubi »
Support your local planetarium!

Offline RIB

  • Member
  • Posts: 36
  • USA
  • Liked: 6
  • Likes Given: 62
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #14 on: 12/04/2017 08:24 PM »
It wasn't a viable idea to fly women in space until the Shuttle era when multi-person crews became a thing and female astronauts could serve as mission specialists or other non-piloting areas.

No. Remember that scientist-astronauts were discussed in the 1960s. There were apparently at least a few women scientists considered very early on in the application process, but they got ruled out. I think there is still more to be discovered about the early discussions of the scientist-astronaut program. It's entirely feasible that a female scientist could have flown on Apollo.
Well, only if she passed what passed for ASCAN training in the 1960-1975 period. I believe some of the science-astronauts in both early selection groups found jet training beyond their skill level.

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10990
  • Liked: 2459
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #15 on: 12/04/2017 10:05 PM »
Well, only if she passed what passed for ASCAN training in the 1960-1975 period. I believe some of the science-astronauts in both early selection groups found jet training beyond their skill level.

So you think women couldn't do that job?

Offline WallE

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 172
  • Liked: 30
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #16 on: 12/04/2017 11:12 PM »
RIB is correct about the jet piloting requirement during the Apollo era. Even Harrison Schmidt, a civilian with no experience as a military test pilot, still had to take lessons flying in jets before he could qualify as an astronaut. None of the Mercury 13 appear to have flown anything but a propeller-driven aircraft, which would have instantly disqualified them from consideration as astronauts.

Eileen Collins and Susan Killrain commanded/piloted Shuttle missions and they did train on jets and met all the mission requirements, so no, it's not impossible for women to handle the piloting aspects of a mission.

As for Jackie Cochran, it's suspected that she became worried about the possibility of the Mercury 13 stealing her spotlight as the top female pilot in the world and worked to undermine them after having initially lobbied for them to become astronauts.
« Last Edit: 12/04/2017 11:21 PM by WallE »

Offline the_other_Doug

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2508
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Liked: 1540
  • Likes Given: 2728
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #17 on: 12/05/2017 02:14 AM »
While I appreciate Blackstar's sentiment that women could have easily flown in Apollo or AAP / Skylab, and totally agree with it, the real issues had nothing to do with whether women could do the jobs.

The real issues had to do with sticking two or three people into a Gemini or Apollo capsule that was the size of the front seat of a VW beetle, or of a station wagon, and expect them to all change their clothes, go to the bathroom, and do all sorts of other very personal things with no ability to go somewhere else to do them.

IIRC, Mike Collins sort of summed it up at one point in "Carrying the Fire", when he made a comment in re Gemini of it being bad enough to use his sticky-bag to have a bowel movement while bumping his arms (and other things) into "ugly ol' John Young sitting beside me"; it would have been nearly impossible to do so next to a woman, no matter how good of a friend she was, or how capable she was at her job.

While you could disappear into the LEB in Apollo, sort of, you weren't really out of view.  There just wasn't that much room in an Apollo; there was no way at all around having to use the waste management system within view of the rest of the crew.

Not only did the men in the astronaut corps at the time find the idea unappealing, their wives found it even less so, and NASA management just shied severely away from explaining how ol' Bill over here just whips his  penis out to empty his bladder, right in front of shy little Mary....  (And yeah, I know, Skylab had a private toilet.  But if you had to go during the day or so after you docked, but before you could inhabit the workshop, you've got the same issue.)

Besides, the astronaut corp was composed of hot-shot test pilots.  Even after Jack Schmitt spent 53 weeks learning to fly jets, the entire corps laughed (behind his back) to the joke "If God had meant Man to fly, he would never have made Jack Schmitt."  They didn't like anyone who didn't conform to their idea of what a test pilot should be like -- and that didn't just include the scientist-astronauts, that included some of the actual test pilots.  People like Al Bean, Rusty Schweickart, Bill Anders and Walt Cunningham felt cut out of every one of the various cliques in the corps, to the point where they formed their own "Why is everyone but us getting flight assignments?" clique.

They tended to see women as people you married and had kids with, or cheated with behind the backs of the wife and children.  Women would have been fine astronauts, I think, and been able to perform just as well as, if not better than, the men who flew early missions.  But the guys who made up the corps at the time would never have accepted them, I don't think.

It was the mores of the late 50s and early 60s that did in any chance of women crew on American spacecraft before Shuttle.
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline RIB

  • Member
  • Posts: 36
  • USA
  • Liked: 6
  • Likes Given: 62
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #18 on: 12/05/2017 10:39 AM »
Well, only if she passed what passed for ASCAN training in the 1960-1975 period. I believe some of the science-astronauts in both early selection groups found jet training beyond their skill level.

So you think women couldn't do that job?


Are you absolutely positive that NO non-pilot science- astronaut ASCAN , regardless of their sex,  wouldn't have failed to qualify as jet pilots during the Mercury-Gemini- Apollo era? Ever hear the Brian O'Leary quote. "Flying isn't my cup of tea?"  Just because they were selected, there was no guarantee that any of the non-pilots in the Group 4 and the XS-11 selection groups would NOT wash out  and never become flight astronauts...that goes for any women who MIGHT have been selected.

Offline WallE

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 172
  • Liked: 30
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #19 on: 12/05/2017 11:51 AM »
While you could disappear into the LEB in Apollo, sort of, you weren't really out of view.  There just wasn't that much room in an Apollo; there was no way at all around having to use the waste management system within view of the rest of the crew.

And let's not even get into Gemini and the amount of "space" in there, or Frank Borman's famous remarks about spending two weeks in a men's room.

Not only did the men in the astronaut corps at the time find the idea unappealing, their wives found it even less so, and NASA management just shied severely away from explaining how ol' Bill over here just whips his  penis out to empty his bladder, right in front of shy little Mary....  (And yeah, I know, Skylab had a private toilet.  But if you had to go during the day or so after you docked, but before you could inhabit the workshop, you've got the same issue.)

On the other hand, Soyuz had an orbital module so these issues didn't come up with Svetlana Savitskaya. They could just go in there, close the door, and do their stuff. During her stay on Salyut 7, they explicitly gave her the orbital module for changing/bathroom use.

Of course, it doesn't factor in Mercury which only had a single pilot so privacy issues weren't a concern there.

Besides, the astronaut corp was composed of hot-shot test pilots.  Even after Jack Schmitt spent 53 weeks learning to fly jets, the entire corps laughed (behind his back) to the joke "If God had meant Man to fly, he would never have made Jack Schmitt."  They didn't like anyone who didn't conform to their idea of what a test pilot should be like -- and that didn't just include the scientist-astronauts, that included some of the actual test pilots.  People like Al Bean, Rusty Schweickart, Bill Anders and Walt Cunningham felt cut out of every one of the various cliques in the corps, to the point where they formed their own "Why is everyone but us getting flight assignments?" clique.

When you think "test pilot", you think a hyper-competitive, macho jock type like Alan Shepard. Weird little hippies like Russell Schweickart were definitely outliers. But by the time of Apollo, NASA were pushing the idea of the scientist-astronaut harder and moving away from the Mercury-era image of astronauts being hard-drinking macho pilots. Some of them like Jim Lovell fell into the role naturally, others like Shepard simply wanted to show off their piloting prowess and had no interest in science.

They tended to see women as people you married and had kids with, or cheated with behind the backs of the wife and children.

Or the wife cheated on you; that happened plenty but was never talked about in those days (unless all those blues, country, and pop songs about cheating spouses were intended as fiction). And I don't think today you'd get away with calling women "a hundred pounds of recreational equipment" like one of the Mercury astronauts apparently did.

Women would have been fine astronauts, I think

Jackie Cochran certainly could have done it if she had been a bit younger (she was in her 50s and too old for consideration as an astronaut by the time Mercury flew). I would argue she was more qualified than any of the Mercury 13 since she actually flew jets.

It was the mores of the late 50s and early 60s that did in any chance of women crew on American spacecraft before Shuttle.

Yes, it was an era where women were expected to marry right out of high school and become homemakers and emulate June Cleaver or something like that. Incidentally, Scott Carpenter's wife later on the '70s became a TV host, got into the women's lib movement and had several lovers. Guess the '60s got to her. Must have been like on the Simpsons when Homer's mom sees Joe Namath's sideburns and has a freak out.

As one other note that I already touched on, space travel in the early days was a huge question mark. Astronauts went up with the full knowledge that their launch vehicle could explode on the pad or in the air, the effects of weightlessness on the human body were unknown, or they might end up crashing into the Moon. Nobody wanted the PR disaster of a woman getting killed on a flight.

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10990
  • Liked: 2459
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #20 on: 12/05/2017 02:59 PM »
It was the mores of the late 50s and early 60s that..

You know, the same arguments were made for not integrating blacks into the armed forces, until Truman ordered it done and it was done.

It's a mental and moral dodge to say that some social advance could not have happened any earlier than it did because it wasn't acceptable. That's a tautology and it doesn't really explain anything at all. The reason changes happen is because people make them happen, because people force them to happen, and because some people suffer the consequences for being the first to challenge the "mores" of their day.

I'm pointing out that it is worthwhile to examine exactly what happened and to whom it happened. And I raised a point that I still think somebody needs to dig into--did any women apply for the early rounds of scientist astronaut selection and who were they and what happened to them?

Offline WallE

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 172
  • Liked: 30
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #21 on: 12/05/2017 03:51 PM »
It's a mental and moral dodge to say that some social advance could not have happened any earlier than it did because it wasn't acceptable. That's a tautology and it doesn't really explain anything at all. The reason changes happen is because people make them happen, because people force them to happen, and because some people suffer the consequences for being the first to challenge the "mores" of their day.

That's a case of arguing whether the chicken or the egg came first. Do social advances happen because someone goes against the grain and makes them happen, or do they happen because society was just naturally heading in that direction?

As things would have it, a lot of existing social mores were very rapidly overturned in the '60s-'70s and then in just a few short years, the astronaut class of '78 recruited the first black and women astronauts. But when Mercury was flying, that was a few years away from happening and most Americans still believed that women were housewives and blacks were jazz musicians and unskilled laborers.

Plus the obvious about what Doug said regarding the lack of privacy on spacecraft pre-Shuttle era.

Oh, and this photo of an Atlas missile on the assembly line shows at least two black workers. Convair gets points for their progressive hiring policies. 8)
« Last Edit: 12/05/2017 09:14 PM by WallE »

Offline Hog

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1093
  • Woodstock
  • Liked: 250
  • Likes Given: 565
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #22 on: 12/05/2017 04:29 PM »
While I appreciate Blackstar's sentiment that women could have easily flown in Apollo or AAP / Skylab, and totally agree with it, the real issues had nothing to do with whether women could do the jobs.

The real issues had to do with sticking two or three people into a Gemini or Apollo capsule that was the size of the front seat of a VW beetle, or of a station wagon, and expect them to all change their clothes, go to the bathroom, and do all sorts of other very personal things with no ability to go somewhere else to do them.

IIRC, Mike Collins sort of summed it up at one point in "Carrying the Fire", when he made a comment in re Gemini of it being bad enough to use his sticky-bag to have a bowel movement while bumping his arms (and other things) into "ugly ol' John Young sitting beside me"; it would have been nearly impossible to do so next to a woman, no matter how good of a friend she was, or how capable she was at her job.

While you could disappear into the LEB in Apollo, sort of, you weren't really out of view.  There just wasn't that much room in an Apollo; there was no way at all around having to use the waste management system within view of the rest of the crew.

Not only did the men in the astronaut corps at the time find the idea unappealing, their wives found it even less so, and NASA management just shied severely away from explaining how ol' Bill over here just whips his  penis out to empty his bladder, right in front of shy little Mary....  (And yeah, I know, Skylab had a private toilet.  But if you had to go during the day or so after you docked, but before you could inhabit the workshop, you've got the same issue.)

Besides, the astronaut corp was composed of hot-shot test pilots.  Even after Jack Schmitt spent 53 weeks learning to fly jets, the entire corps laughed (behind his back) to the joke "If God had meant Man to fly, he would never have made Jack Schmitt."  They didn't like anyone who didn't conform to their idea of what a test pilot should be like -- and that didn't just include the scientist-astronauts, that included some of the actual test pilots.  People like Al Bean, Rusty Schweickart, Bill Anders and Walt Cunningham felt cut out of every one of the various cliques in the corps, to the point where they formed their own "Why is everyone but us getting flight assignments?" clique.

They tended to see women as people you married and had kids with, or cheated with behind the backs of the wife and children.  Women would have been fine astronauts, I think, and been able to perform just as well as, if not better than, the men who flew early missions.  But the guys who made up the corps at the time would never have accepted them, I don't think.

It was the mores of the late 50s and early 60s that did in any chance of women crew on American spacecraft before Shuttle.
Wow, worries about infidelity and elimination hold back an entire 1/2 of the population. Quite the history of US/Western "morals" holding themselves back.   I'm sorry, but I remember having to drop trow with my fireteam partner and her doing the same.  She's yelling you got any paper?  I said no, but I got this as I ripped my olive drab field-sling in half.  I was even a gentleman and gave her the half with the least amount of CLP on it.  What's good for my gun parts, isn't great for human "parts". (and yes, it was a gun-C9 LMG/C6 GPMG-not my C7).  Heck there were times where I'd rather have her real close to me, but male or female didn't matter, so long as you had good sense and senses and were proficient with your weapons systems, we were going to get along really well.
It's amazing just how shallow the "civility" of civilization is, get some emotion and fear mixed together and its amazing what people can do to other people, or in the feeling of this post, beside one another.

Even with all the benefits that STS provided the male/female, it still took until STS-63 Discovery launched to Mir station on on Feb 3rd, 1995 for a female to Pilot with Colonel Eileen Collins, at the stick(even though Orbiter Commanders did most of the actual flying).  She was Pilot on her 1st spaceflight. She went on to again Pilot during the May 15, 1997 launch of STS-84 Atlantis again to the MIR station.   She then took the left seat, where the Commander sits for the exciting LOX low cutoff STS-93 Columbia mission launched (finally) on July 23, 1999 with the super heavyweight Chandra X-Ray observatory. This was the last STS mission to use an Inertial Upper Stage booster.
She then again was Commander for the RTF flight STS-114-Discovery which launched on July 26, 2005.

Colonel Pam Melroy, a combat veteran of GW-1 with over 200 combat hours, was Pilot in her 1st spaceflight during STS-92 which launched on October 11, 2000.
She again was Pilot for STS-112 Atlantis that launched on October 7, 2002.  For her final spaceflight, STS-120 Discovery which launched on October 23, 2007 where she and her crew delivered the Harmony Module(Node-2)

I only wish that these 2 women got to do 2 missions together, each one taking a turn as Commander with the other as Pilot.

We now have 4 people in the CSA Astronaut Corps with Jennifer Sidey and Joshua Kutryk currently Astronaut Candidates and are sitting in with the NASA Turtles(Group 22) down in Texas for training.  We now have 3 men and 1 woman in the CSA Astronaut Corps.
 
Pic #1 Harmony Node
Pic#2 CHANDRA X-Ray Observatory and her Inertial Upper Stage
Pic #3 Dr. Jennifer Sidey CSA's newest femal Astronaut Candidate
Paul

Offline the_other_Doug

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2508
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Liked: 1540
  • Likes Given: 2728
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #23 on: 12/05/2017 04:32 PM »
It is also important to note that the astronaut corps served more as lines in the sand against any level of social engineering, than as great showcases for changing peoples' views on what all sorts of people ought, within approved social mores, to be allowed to do.  They were held up (specifically by the NASA PR machine) as monuments to how great American society was -- and American society meant Mom, Dad and two-point-five kids.  Mom at home raising the kids, and Dad off earning the income and, except on rare occasions, ignoring the family.

For example, at a time when the divorce rate was creeping up, and it was more and more common to find divorced people, the common understanding amongst the astronaut corps was that, whether your marriage was falling apart or not, filing for divorce meant asking to be taken out of the flight rotation.  Certainly, based on several astronaut biographies, everyone in the corps (and their families) were given to understand that this would be the case.

Blackstar seems to be holding up the "If just one person Steps Forward and Does the Right Thing" theory of history.  When, in almost all cases, the first person to Step Forward is almost always a sacrificial offering.

Even after some things become acceptable in society at large, of course, there are still major sub-cultures to whom such "advanced" thinking is nothing short of offensive.  How long after it was legal to have mixed-race marriages everywhere in the U.S. (and yes,  boys and girls, there were, in my lifetime, laws against blacks and whites marrying in some states in this country) would major TV broadcasters refuse to feature interracial couples in their programming, for fear "the entire South" would turn off their TVs and boycott the sponsors' products?

How about right up until the present day?  In other words, just how common are interracial couples on TV even today?  Very uncommon, still, even though you see it on the street every day.

And if women could be astronauts in 1959, why couldn't they be fighter pilots in Korea and Vietnam?  Because, at least in the view of the Powers That Be that decided such things, it was no more acceptable to see women killed or taken prisoner in war than it was to see them blown to smithereens on the top of an Atlas missile.  Amongst many sub-cultures, neither is yet acceptable, though it is considered perfectly acceptable for any man who is brave enough (or damn-fool enough) to do it.

So, no -- it was not a matter of "Hey, just do the Right Thing!"  At the time, the Right Thing was nowhere near as obvious is at might seem to you and me, with the benefit of hindsight.  And, to a vanishing-but-still-huge segment of society, it still isn't.
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10990
  • Liked: 2459
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #24 on: 12/05/2017 07:08 PM »
Blackstar seems to be holding up the "If just one person Steps Forward and Does the Right Thing" theory of history. 

Nope. What I'm saying is that "it didn't happen until society was ready for it to happen" is an argument with no explanatory power at all. Why didn't it happen earlier? "Society was not ready for it to happen earlier." Why didn't it happen later? "Society was ready for it to happen at that time, not later." It's a tautological argument that does not explain differences. Furthermore, "society" is not some abstract thing that operates on its own, it consists of people. Understanding who those people were, what they did, and how it affected the outcomes is the real challenge. Unless we're going to do that, then saying "society was not ready for it to happen earlier" is akin to saying "God willed it."

Offline John-H

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 126
  • Liked: 31
  • Likes Given: 78
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #25 on: 12/05/2017 08:35 PM »
Saying "Society isn't ready for this" doesn't really explain anything, but I am at a bit of a loss trying to understand what does. Sometimes jobs become less dangerous, or less strenuous, or more pleasant, and they appeal to a different population. Sometimes ideas just become more or less fashionable. Whatever it is, it is a general shift in attitudes and not specific to astronauts, and I don't think actions by NASA alone would have made much difference one way or another.

John

Offline WallE

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 172
  • Liked: 30
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #26 on: 12/05/2017 09:53 PM »
Saying "Society isn't ready for this" doesn't really explain anything, but I am at a bit of a loss trying to understand what does. Sometimes jobs become less dangerous, or less strenuous, or more pleasant, and they appeal to a different population. Sometimes ideas just become more or less fashionable. Whatever it is, it is a general shift in attitudes and not specific to astronauts, and I don't think actions by NASA alone would have made much difference one way or another.

The Founders considered prohibiting slavery in the Constitution, but decided against it on the grounds that the Southern states might not ratify it otherwise. Many of them believed slavery was immoral, but realized that American society was not ready to abolish it yet. Thomas Jefferson believed it would happen someday, but not in his lifetime. The point being that you can have plenty of progressive-minded people who oppose some social injustice, but they're often too far ahead of their time and society at large may be generations behind them.

Many neighborhoods up to the late '60s prohibited blacks and Jews from residing in them. The first Levittown housing development barred blacks. Although William Levitt was Jewish and could sympathize with being discriminated against, he said that he didn't have a choice and 90% of his white customers would refuse to buy a house if a black family lived in the development.

The '50s-early '60s were a low point for women's lib anyway. Some say it was a reaction against the era of suffragettes and liberated flappers in the early part of the century. Whatever the case, the idea of the June Cleaver-style housewife who baked cookies was in fashion, and the average age of marriage in the US dropped to about 19. Betty Friedan famously interviewed female college grads in 1957 and was shocked at their general indifference to world events compared with her own college class which graduated as the world was at war.

Anyway, like others have said, NASA weren't necessarily supposed to be at the forefront of civil rights and social progress, although of course they did adapt to the changing times (like I mentioned, they tolerated Jack Swigert's bachelor/swinger lifestyle which would have been unacceptable a few years earlier). They rode along with the trends, but they didn't set them and it wasn't their job to do so anyway.

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10990
  • Liked: 2459
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #27 on: 12/06/2017 01:00 AM »
Whatever it is, it is a general shift in attitudes

And again, "general shift in attitudes" doesn't really explain anything. It's just a big broad brush that erases the individuals and their actions that resulted in change. Was it a "general shift in attitudes" that led to Jackie Robinson playing Major League Baseball? Considering that even after being signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers he was regularly taunted and called racist names by other players and fans, how could anybody say that there was a "general shift in attitudes" that enabled him to play? No, somebody took a risk signing him in 1947, and then Robinson took a major risk every time he walked out onto the field. Robinson's actions helped change attitudes.

So here's something more relevant to the astronaut corps: the military academies were forced by act of Congress in 1975 to accept women, and the first women cadets were accepted into West Point in 1976. That was a specific action (well, actions) and they resulted in women becoming cadets. But of course, women had been officers in the military for decades by then. NASA accepted the first women into its astronaut corps in 1978, after the West Point change. But there had been women scientists like Ride before 1978. Could they have become part of the NASA astronaut corps earlier? Why not? Why were they specifically ruled out--not "generally attitudinally" ruled out, but specifically? And if you read Mike Mullane's book, you know that he, and presumably other male astronauts, had not experienced any "general shift in attitudes" towards women. Mullane was in the same astronaut class as Ride, and he didn't think she belonged there.

I'm pointing to the requirement to not be lazy in all this and assume that things happened at a specific time because that was somehow the only time they could have happened, like it was all preordained. That's no different than saying "God willed it to happen then." And it erases the specific people and their actions from history.
« Last Edit: 12/06/2017 01:01 AM by Blackstar »

Offline Rocket Science

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8016
  • NASA Educator Astronaut Candidate Applicant 2002
  • Liked: 2213
  • Likes Given: 5172
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #28 on: 12/06/2017 01:39 PM »
This discussion reminds a bit of the political environment surrounding the Tuskegee Airmen. You know, African-Americans were incapable of being fighter pilots etc... President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in office when that all changed and thus launched the legend of the "Red Tails"...
http://www.redtail.org/the-airmen-a-brief-history/
http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/tuskegee-airmen
Supposedly these guys couldn't fly and fight...
« Last Edit: 12/06/2017 01:45 PM by Rocket Science »
"The laws of physics are unforgiving"
~Rob, Physics instructor, aviator, vintage auto racer

Offline zubenelgenubi

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1181
  • Arc to Arcturus, then Spike to Spica
  • Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Liked: 251
  • Likes Given: 733
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #29 on: 12/06/2017 09:02 PM »
I'm pointing out that it is worthwhile to examine exactly what happened and to whom it happened. And I raised a point that I still think somebody needs to dig into--did any women apply for the early rounds of scientist astronaut selection and who were they and what happened to them?

If there are any budding historians of space history perusing this forum, please take note ^^^.

I, too, think this is an Important Question that needs researching, followed by publication.

(My 2 quatloos)
« Last Edit: 12/06/2017 09:04 PM by zubenelgenubi »
Support your local planetarium!

Offline WallE

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 172
  • Liked: 30
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight
« Reply #30 on: 12/07/2017 12:52 AM »
So here's something more relevant to the astronaut corps: the military academies were forced by act of Congress in 1975 to accept women, and the first women cadets were accepted into West Point in 1976. That was a specific action (well, actions) and they resulted in women becoming cadets. But of course, women had been officers in the military for decades by then. NASA accepted the first women into its astronaut corps in 1978, after the West Point change. But there had been women scientists like Ride before 1978. Could they have become part of the NASA astronaut corps earlier? Why not? Why were they specifically ruled out--not "generally attitudinally" ruled out, but specifically?

We did discuss at length in here the state of gender relations in America during the 1945-65 period and why it wasn't conductive to women going in space. But if you want to dismiss that as meaningless foofaraw, then there's still the very obvious, practical issues of Gemini and Apollo capsules having little to no privacy and it being pretty unreasonable to expect opposite-gender astronauts to carry out bathroom duties in a spacecraft with the approximate space of a car's front seats.

And if you read Mike Mullane's book, you know that he, and presumably other male astronauts, had not experienced any "general shift in attitudes" towards women. Mullane was in the same astronaut class as Ride, and he didn't think she belonged there.

The male astronauts in the class of '78 for the most part had no objection to women in the astronaut corps, although the longtime veterans found it hard to get used to. And in regards to Mike Mullane, he has always spoken highly of Rhea Seddon and Judy Resnik (they were rumored to be romantically involved, but Mullane denies it). It was really only Sally Ride that he had a disliking of, he called her a humorless feminist.

Tags: