Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream

by Tanya Lee Stone
     
 

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What does it take to be an astronaut? Excellence at flying, courage, intelligence, resistance to stress, top physical shape, any checklist would include these. But when America created NASA in 1958, there was another unspoken rule: you had to be a man. Here is the tale of thirteen women who proved that they were not only as tough as the toughest man but also

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Overview

What does it take to be an astronaut? Excellence at flying, courage, intelligence, resistance to stress, top physical shape, any checklist would include these. But when America created NASA in 1958, there was another unspoken rule: you had to be a man. Here is the tale of thirteen women who proved that they were not only as tough as the toughest man but also brave enough to challenge the government. They were blocked by prejudice, jealousy, and the scrawled note of one of the most powerful men in Washington. But even though the Mercury 13 women did not make it into space, they did not lose, for their example empowered young women to take their place in the sky, piloting jets and commanding space capsules. Almost Astronauts is the story of thirteen true pioneers of the space age.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Enlivened by numerous b&w and color photographs, this thorough book takes readers back to the early 1960s to tell the story of 13 women who underwent a battery of physical endurance tests (including hours spent in a deprivation tank) and psychological analysis to determine their readiness to travel in space. A gripping narrative surfaces in Stone's text, as the women are repeatedly thwarted by NASA, discriminated against and patronized by society ("Gene Nora Stumbough's boss said she couldn't have time off. So she quit. Sarah Gorelick had the same problem.... So she quit"). Readers with an interest in history and in women's struggle for equality will undoubtedly be moved. Ages 10-up. (Feb.)

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Children's Literature - Sue Poduska
Women were not allowed into the U.S. space program until 1978, but talented women lived on the fringes of the program from the early days. Through the efforts of Randolph Lovelace, the chairman of NASA's Life Sciences Committee, several women were tested for suitability for space travel. The first woman tested was Jerrie Cobb, who more than surpassed the results seen for the Mercury 7 astronauts. Twelve more women had excellent results, but they never got the chance to be trained. More than twenty years after the first manned space flights, Sally Ride became the first woman in space. Another sixteen years passed before Eileen Collins became the first female shuttle commander. The author spends a large portion of the book describing the social and political atmosphere of the time. While this is important, the descriptions feel almost like a distraction. The achievements of these women were impressive in any situation, and their stories should be told. The book is readable and useful as a reference. The author's research is meticulous, and she includes a good index, numerous photographs and illustrations with credits, references for further reading, available websites, an extensive bibliography, endnotes, and acknowledgments. Reviewer: Sue Poduska
VOYA - Laura Lehner
In 1960, thirteen American women passed the physical exams required to become astronauts as surely as any of the men already involved in NASA's early space flight endeavors, but they were disqualified solely because of their gender. This book is their story. Pilot Jerrie Cobb was invited at the age of twenty-eight by a private foundation working with NASA to participate in the same type of testing that the Mercury 7 astronauts had to take - she jumped at the chance. She passed the difficult physical challenges more successfully and with far less complaining than some of her male counterparts. Cobb opened the door for twenty-four additional female pilots to undergo the strenuous testing. Twelve passed, only to be told in a directive from Vice President Lyndon Johnson that NASA would not be accepting female astronauts into their program. Their story then continues through the milestones for women in space up to the present - Sunita Williams was appointed in 2008 to the most senior astronaut position at NASA. Stone does an admirable job of compiling and crediting her facts and figures and of profiling these strong and adventurous women. Many historical photographs help tell the story, changing dramatically from black and white to full color as women take their rightful positions in the American space program. The staccato writing and authorial intrusions can confuse the narrative at times, but any girl with an interest in space flight or the history of women's rights will enjoy this account and applaud these courageous pioneers. Reviewer: Laura Lehner
School Library Journal

Gr 5-7

Stone adopts a tone of righteous indignation in chronicling the quixotic efforts of 13 women to win admission into NASA's initial astronaut training program in the early 1960s. The women were all pilots (one, Jerrie Cobb, had more hours in the air than John Glenn or Scott Carpenter), earned high scores in preliminary tests, and even counted a senator's wife among their number. But resistance came from all directions-including NASA regulations, which were weighted toward men; media coverage that reflected contemporary gender expectations; political maneuvering by then vice president LBJ and other officials; and the crushing opposition expressed by renowned aviatrix Jackie Cochran in a 1962 Congressional hearing. Properly noting, however, that losing "depends on where you draw the finish line," the author closes with chapters on how women did ultimately win their way into space-not only as mission specialists, but also as pilots and commanders. Illustrated with sheaves of photos, and based on published sources, recently discovered documents, and original interviews with surviving members of the "Mercury 13," this passionately written account of a classic but little-known challenge to established gender prejudices also introduces readers to a select group of courageous, independent women.-John Peters, New York Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
The fascinating, dramatic story of the "Mercury 13," a group of women aviators who proved to be as courageous, intelligent and fit as any man, but who were nonetheless barred from NASA's astronaut program because of their gender. At the center of the story is Jerrie Cobb, a veteran pilot who successfully completed every test given to male astronauts. Her performance, and that of the others, proved women had the "right stuff," but these findings were not enough to overcome the prevailing prejudices of the time. It took 20 years before NASA admitted women into the astronaut program. Stone poignantly chronicles how the efforts of Cobb and her colleagues were ridiculed and thwarted by everyone from Vice President Lyndon Johnson to Mercury astronauts Scott Carpenter and John Glenn and-in a bitter irony-Jackie Cochran, a highly respected, trailblazing female pilot who appeared to be motivated by jealousy and spite. The author offers great insight into how deeply ingrained sexism was in American society and its institutions. Handsomely illustrated with photographs, this empowering, impassioned story will leave readers inspired. (foreword, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763636111
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
02/24/2009
Pages:
144
Sales rank:
1,361,700
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile:
980L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 Years

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