As the AvGeek working on our Apollo 11 live tweeting project, I’ve been reading and watching (and eating and drinking) anything I can find about the Apollo 11 mission. (We couldn’t believe it when the wine we ordered last night arrived with this label – it was delicious!).
While we mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, it’s appropriate to focus our attention on the three brave astronauts who risked their lives to accomplish it on behalf of humanity.
But it’s also a good time to celebrate the women who contributed to the Apollo program and helped make it a success. Luckily, movies like ‘Hidden Figures’ have begun to reveal that – from the beginning – the space program was not the all-male, all-white bastion we’ve long pictured, but in fact always included women and people of color.
So here’s a shout-out to just a few of the hundreds of women who made the moon landing possible:
Johnson used her extraordinary math skills on create some of the earliest trajectory analysis for NASA’s manned space flights, including Freedom 7 and Friendship 7.
Jackson was one of NASA’s first female engineers. During her long career much of her work was focused on aerodynamics.
READ: “Mary Jackson” (Scientific Women)
Northcutt worked as an engineer for NASA’s mission planning and analysis support team during the Apollo Program, where she worked on plotting return trajectories.
READ: “Inside Apollo mission control, from the eyes of the first woman on the job” (National Geographic)
Morgan was an instrumentation controller for the Apollo 11 mission and the only woman in the launch firing room at Mission Control on 16 July, 1969. Her career at NASA spanned 45 years and she is the most decorated women in NASA history.
READ: “Rocket Fuel in Her Blood” (NASA)
An MIT-trained computer programmer, Hamilton and her team wrote the software for Apollo 11’s two computers.
READ: “Margaret Hamilton Led the NASA Software Team That Landed Astronauts on the Moon” (Smithsonian Magazine)
“If you think going to the Moon is hard, try staying at home.”Barbara Cernan
The Astronaut’s Wives
“If you think going to the Moon is hard, try staying at home,” Barbara Cernan, wife of Gene Cernan, said after the Apollo 17 mission.
The astronauts’ wives and families were under enormous pressure during the space program. Not only did they have to cope with the extreme danger their spouses faced (in training as well as in space), they were also the subject of intense media attention. With reporters camped on their lawns during what had to have been some of the most stressful moments in their lives, they were expected to always represent NASA well, smiling and laughing through their fears when they appeared in public.
READ MORE: Here are some other interesting articles about women and the space program:
“To Make it to the Moon, Women Have to Escape Earth’s Gender Bias” (The New York Times)
“A Woman on the Moon and Equality on Earth” (Council on Foreign Relations)
“Who Will Be the First Woman to Walk on the Moon?” (The Telegraph)
“Women of Apollo” (The Los Angeles Times)
“Behind the men on the moon, there were thousands of women” (The Boston Globe)