The path from dream to success does exist. You have the vision,courage and perseverance to find it.
A few weeks back, my module on exploring the past of Birmingham ended, and as you have probably guessed, a new one began in its stead. This time around, it seemed that the idea of exploring beyond what you already know has literally been blown out beyond even the boarders of earth- this time, my brief is to help an incredible theatre company create an exhibition, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 reaching the moon on the 24th July, 1969.
But ,for me, the initial boundaries of this brief just weren’t inspiring enough- it was remarkable to see man’s endeavour to get to the moon, and look into how we got there, but I felt something was missing- a sense of secrecy constantly pervaded the records I was sifting through, and no matter the stories I read, I couldn’t shake the feeling that one half of the tale was not being told. It was then I figured out what I was not finding anywhere within my initial research- the stories of the female astronauts, who had an equally important influence upon the NASA programme, which to this day inspires both the young and the old. Where on earth were they amongst all these mission logs and data reports? And more importantly, why had they not earnt the recognition their male counterparts had, for achieving equally outstanding feats of discovery and adventure?
It was this awakening moment that then led me to where I am now- having researched so far nine of almost fifty incredible women, who all were part of the NASA space programme from the early 1950s up to present day, the stories they have to share are -I feel- perhaps even more inspiring than those of Neil Armstrong’s or even Buzz Aldrin’s, as an example. Unlike their male counterparts, all these women had battles to wage even before they’d got so much as a toe inside a space shuttle. Many would say women should never have been allowed onto the space programme at all- what could they possibly have to offer, when their brains were supposedly smaller compared to a man’s? Would the effects of no gravity stop them being able to conceive children? How would they maintain a sense of womanly grace when their stuck millions of feet in the air, without access to proper cleaning facilities? These ridiculous questions are just some of the comments which followed the incredible women, as they pushed onwards to be recognised for what they are- inventors, dreamers, and most importantly- astronauts.
It would take almost 30 years before NASA finally allowed a woman called Sally Ride to fly into space- and this woman is one of the many who I am lucky enough to research, who forged the path for other females like her, to be part of a programme that was founded on a universal dream, to touch the stars, and walk amongst planets alien to our own. Whilst Sally earnt the accolade of being the first American woman in space, her determination inspired countless more victories- Judith Resnik become the first person ever to invent and then use a robotic arm to move items outside of the space capsule, and after her, came Kathryn D Sullivan, who was the first woman to perform a spacewalk, and also the first person to prove a space capsule could be refuelled whilst still outside of earths orbit. Mae Jemison was the first African-American ever to be allowed onto the space programme, alongside Kalpana Chawla, the first female Indian-American to be accepted onto flights into space. There are so many stories I could tell you of these fantastic females, who all achieved so much, and yet earnt such little recognition for the outstanding inventions, actions and motions they founded, which effected positive change forever, not only on the NASA space programme itself, but also the discovery of space as a whole.
For the next few weeks, this blog will be dedicated to these women’s stories- I’ll tell you about Laurel Clark and her growing of roses in space, to Christa McAuliffe, the first civilian ever to be accepted onto the space flight programmes of NASA. It’s going to be a fascinating project- and I cannot wait to make something which hopefully, will give these women the respect they deserve, for being ,quite frankly, AWESOME.