Hundreds of humans have flown in space. Only 40 women (54 as of 2012) have made the journey — including Eileen M. Collins, who commands the Space Shuttle Discovery on NASA’s historic return to flight. NPR explores the long road that women like her have trod into space:
1960-1962: Ladies in Waiting
Twenty-five women report to the Lovelace Clinic, the aviation medicine hub that tested the Mercury 7, America’s first astronauts. There they undergo the same stringent tests endured by the men. All of the women are professional pilots. Several rank among the most distinguished pilots of their time, and many of them outperform the Mercury 7.
Lovelace dubs the 13 who pass the tests the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATs), and they are scheduled for training to become the “Mercury 13.” Just days before reporting to the Naval Aviation Center in Pensacola, Fla., the women receive telegrams canceling their training.
Two of the women — Jerrie Cobb and Janey Hart — campaign in Washington, D.C., to resume the training program. In July 1962, they testify before a special subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, but the panel decides that training female astronauts would hurt the space program. The FLATs never fly in space.
June 16, 1963: First Woman in Space
Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space. She spends more time in space than all of the astronauts of NASA’s Mercury program combined…
keep reading – NPR – Timeline: Women in Space