The Women Of Nasa
This month will see the start of celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 successfully landing upon the moon. In light of this momentous event, I was asked to create a body of work to celebrate what NASA has achieved throughout its history, and explore what It has done for humanity and our understanding of the universe surrounding us.
Initially, I had planned to keep things simple, and explore only the lives of the Apollo 11 astronauts themselves, and what their experiences had been, of standing upon the moons surface, and realising they were the first humans ever to set foot there. But, as I began to research the experiences of Micheal Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, I came across another set of experiences, which intrigued me much more than this initial exploration.
The story I discovered was of the lost Mercury 13 crew. During the very first few decades of NASA sending astronauts into space, they had been testing whether women too could be part of the space programme- and it was these women who made up the mercury 13- a groundbreaking group of females who were not only breaking the boundaries of science, but also the boundaries of sexism in 1960s America. As they endured endless scientific experiments and trials, this incredible band of ladies not only proved they could survive space, but also, they could be successful at it too. All of the women chosen achieved marks from the experiments higher than their male counterparts, who already had been selected to enter space as members of the Mercury 1 crew, and all of them surpassed each test with flying colours. Though the evidence was there to prove they were excellent candidates for this fledging programme into space exploration, the countless hours of data these women had collated was largely ignored. NASA decided to shut their training down permanently, rather than face public backlash of sending females into space, within a world which deemed they shouldn't even be in a programme for science, let alone a space module.
These women were not the first to be let down by sexism within NASA, and it would take thirty years before an American woman finally was allowed into space. Starting with Sally Ride and Kathryn D Sullivan, their incredible flights into space disproved the years of sexism that had poisoned the space programme, and began work that would allow further generations of women to have the right to see just where they lived, within this infinite universe.
It was these women's incredible journeys within NASA that inspired me for this module to celebrate the forgotten heroes. Without these women, NASA never would have reached the dizzying standards of discovery, and so this zine was designed to thank all these incredible females and tell their stories to a new generation, in the hopes that exploration into space will begin to accept more women onto the programme.