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Girl Astronaut: 1959

Girl Astronaut: 1959

October 1959. "Pilot and auto test driver Betty Skelton at McDonnell Aircraft Corp., St. Louis. She is undergoing a multitude of physiological tests to assess her fitness to become an astronaut." 35mm Kodachrome by Bob Sandberg for the Look magazine assignment "Girl Astronaut -- Lady wants to orbit." View full size.


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Looks like Kodachrome blue skies with a fine lady.

It took four years

Regarding the previous comment, it actually took only 4 years until the USSR launched Valentina Tereshkova on a 3-day mission. Like most (essentially all) cosmonauts, she had no piloting tasks to do, but was qualified as a skydiver - and all the Vostok flight required a bail-out at the end, since it was not safe to ride it all the way to the ground.

The Mercury astronauts were all test pilots, but the translation of airplane piloting manual skills to flying spacecraft is weak. The Mercury 7 were all pretty good "stick and rudder men" but not necessarily the best available - but they were all trained in the engineering aspects of test piloting, more than the seat-of-the-pants guys like Yeager and Crossfield.

There's no reason a woman with similar training couldn't have done the same job just as well. But there weren't any, Betty Skelton included, no matter what her airplane piloting skills were. As it turned out, the Mercury flights were not too demanding in any regard aside from G-tolerance (which is a wash between men and women), but they didn't know that ahead of time. Almost anyone who could fit in the capsule could have managed it, Betty included.

And it took another 24 years

For Sally Ride to get sent up there.

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