The Mercury 13


Fifty-five years ago this month, the first of a group of female aviators was invited to undergo rigorous challenges to become astronauts – and on some tests, they outperformed the men. These elite women became the Mercury 13.

“I was one of the very active women pilots at the time,” explains Sarah Ratley, one of the women chosen. “Many of us had dreams of being in the space program.”

Aviation was very much a man’s world at that time, and the female pilots had already needed to push past considerable barriers in their pursuit of flight. “I started flying while in high school. I paid for part of college [by] flight instructing and commercial flying. I continued working in aviation after college while being employed full-time in engineering,” says Ratley, who also held a degree in mathematics with minors in physics and chemistry.

Some scientists believed that because the average woman was smaller and lighter than a man, their build could make them better potential candidates to travel into space and cope in the cramped conditions.

NASA had not publicly expressed interest in sending women into space, so testing on the female astronauts began under private funding, spearheaded by Dr William Lovelace, who had been involved in evaluating male astronauts.

The 13 would-be astronauts also included Jerrie Cobb, Bernice Steadman, Janey Hart, Jerri Truhill, Rhea Woltman, Jan and Marion Dietrich, Myrtle Cagle, Gene Nora Jessen, Jean Hixson, Wally Funk, and Irene Leverton. Some of the group had come from the humblest beginnings to claim their status as elite pilots.

Testing was eventually canceled, and despite protests from some of the women and a public hearing in 1962, the answer was still no. At the time NASA required all astronauts to be test pilots, which was also something no woman was allowed to do.


Climate-Change Denier Ted Cruz To Oversee NASA And Science Subcommittee

Secular Talk

According to the Huffington Post, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was named chair of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, where he will oversee NASA and science programs.

Appointed Jan. 8, Cruz is expected to be confirmed to the new role by the end of the month as one of many changes to the new Republican-controlled Congress.

But the Republican senator’s words and actions during his time in office have painted him to be a far cry from an advocate for the sciences, leaving many concerned about the future of space and science funding.

Cruz’s infamous hours-long speech in September 2013 led to a 16-day government shutdown barring 97 percent of NASA employees from appearing for work. Interns to the agency were temporarily displaced when the NASA-provided housing was closed during the shutdown, and many have said the agency suffered lasting damage due to the freeze.

The U.S. Weather Infrastructure

Does the U.S. have difficulty predicting the weather and creating accurate weather forecasts?

Thom Hartmann talks with Kathryn Miles, Journalist & Author of Superstorm:  Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy about the U.S. weather infrastructure.

Video by Thom Hartmann.