"It", in this case, referring to "The Right Stuff". Brandon Keim at Wired Science had a great post yesterday about attempts by NASA contractors to get women into the space program during the late 1950s. The (ultimately unsuccessful) charge was led by Randy Lovelace–the doctor responsible for putting together health tests for astronaut hopefuls during the original Mercury 7 selection process–and Donald Flickinger–an Air Force general. Flickinger founded the Women in Space Earliest program in 1959, Keim writes…
But the Air Force canned it before testing even started, prompting Lovelace to start the Woman in Space Program.
Nineteen women enrolled in WISP, undergoing the same grueling tests administered to the male Mercury astronauts. Thirteen of them — later dubbed the Mercury 13 — passed "with no medical reservations," a higher graduation rate than the first male class. The top four women scored as highly as any of the men
It's pretty fascinating stuff, I just wish Keim had included more biographical information on the women involved. Unlike the male astronaut candidates, they couldn't have come from the Air Force (and 1959 seems a little late for women who'd been with the WAC in World War II to be in prime physical condition), and yet, the women were trained, experienced pilots. There's some great stories fluttering in the shadows around this piece. I, for one, would love to know more.*
*Read: I would kill to interview one of these women. If you, your mom, or your grandma were involved, email me. Seriously.