Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Mercury 13 (2018)

It occurred to me one day that astronauts probably have the worst commute ever.  Consider that a rocket launch would subject the passengers to three times the normal gravity of Earth.  Someone going to the International Space Station could be there in a few hours.  For Apollo astronauts, it took about three days for the ship to get there and another three to get back.  Plus, you’re crammed into a little ship and have to bring all your supplies with you.

I don’t imagine many people qualify to do that for a living.  Geraldyn "Jerrie" Cobb might say otherwise.  Cobb was one of 13 women who wanted to become Mercury astronauts.  All of the women were pilots.  They underwent many of the same tests as the men, even though NASA never sanctioned it.  NASA wanted nothing to do with them in any official capacity.  As far as NASA was concerned, you had to be a man to be an astronaut.

In hindsight, we can see how misguided that thinking was.  Women have become astronauts since.  And you can say it was the 1960s.  That sort of thing was common.  This happened years before the Civil Rights Act would have prevented it.  NASA still required astronauts to be graduates of a certain military program, meaning they basically had to be men.  All this despite the fact that the Soviet Union sent women while all of this was going on.

The truth is that saying women weren’t fit was a load.  No one knew what to expect.  There was no promise that anyone could handle it.  The Mercury program was meant to be our first step out into space.  It was supposed to see how someone reacted to going up and coming back down before going to the moon.

It’s an interesting film to watch.  At 78 minutes, it’s a little long to watch in most grade-school classes, but it does show what sexism looked like.  There was absolutely no reason why the women should have been denied the opportunity to go into space.

This is but one front where women seek equality.  You’d think that women would be better represented.  Given that half the population is female, you’d think that half of any given group would be female.  The Senate should have 50 men and 50 women, give or take.  Even though women have been into space, only about 12% of the 536 people have been female.  We should have had 22 women serve as president out of the 44 people who have held the office.  (For those wondering, Grover Cleveland is counted twice.)

It’s an interesting story for those that want to learn about equality.  It’s a case of women being shoved aside simply because they weren’t men.  It’s almost like that line attributed to Winston Churchill: You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.

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