Mercury 13 documentary review: the even righter stuff

part of my On Netflix Globally and Directed by Women series
MaryAnn’s quick take: An essential documentary look at yet another example of historical feminism that should never have been forgotten: the first American in space might have and probably should have been a woman.
I’m “biast” (pro): big space nerd; desperate for stories about real women
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
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You’ve heard of the Mercury 7. They were America’s first astronauts: the first to sit atop a rocket and get shot into space, the first to experience zero gravity, the first to orbit our planet. They were the subject of the multiple-Oscar-winning film The Right Stuff, based on the bestselling book of the same name. They were global celebrities for their exploits in the 1960s and remain national heroes to this day.

The Mercury 7 were all men.

You’ve probably never heard of the Mercury 13. (I’m a bit of a space buff, and I hadn’t.) They were tested for their suitability for space flight by Dr. Randy Lovelace, the physician who developed those tests for NASA. Lovelace believed the 13 were even better suited than the 7. But NASA said, basically, “No freakin’ way.”

The Mercury 13 were all women.

Yeah, why not spacewomen?
Yeah, why not spacewomen?

I do not ever want to hear again that “diversity” is a scam and “it should just be the best person for the job.” I do not ever want to hear again that the reason so many fields of human endeavor are so dominated by men is simply because women aren’t interested in taking them on. I mean, we know that’s all the most unmitigated pile of misogynistic bullshit, but how many times does it have to be unquestionably refuted before it stops getting trotted out? Because once again, in the essential new documentary Mercury 13, we learn — relearn! rediscover! — that women were interested in becoming astronauts and women were qualified and women were ready, eager, excited to embark on this grand adventure… and the women were shot down for no reason other than pure sexism.

Via amazing vintage footage as well as interviews with the surviving members of the Mercury 13, directors David Sington (In the Shadow of the Moon) and Heather Walsh (her directorial debut) profile the group, their derring-do, and the public battle they fought to be allowed to stand alongside the male astronaut candidates. They went before Congress in 1962 to argue for their proper places at NASA! (Spoiler: They lost.) I can’t believe I had never heard about this before.

What if we had stopped denying women’s talents and ambitions and started embracing them instead?

The Mercury 13 are: Myrtle Cagle, Jerrie Cobb, Marion and Janet Dietrich (they were twins), Wally Funk, Sarah Gorelick, Janey Hart, Jean Hixson, Rhea Hurrle, Gene Nora Stumbough, Irene Leverton, Jerri Sloan, and Bernice Steadman. Jerrie Cobb? Wally Funk?! They even sound like astronauts! And to hear them say, with sighs for the opportunities they never got, things like “I could have done anything they [the guys] did” is to become enraged all over again at how women are sidelined in our culture.

In fact, the most powerful aspect of Mercury 13 is its vision of this: What if the first person to walk on the Moon had been a woman? What if Janey Hart had been the one getting ticker-tape parades and being celebrated as a pioneer of great and astounding human deeds? What might the world look like now if we had stopped denying women’s talents and ambitions and started embracing them instead?

We still don’t know the answer to that, and it’s infuriating.

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Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 12:41am

“But NASA said, basically, “No freakin’ way.”” == This never happened, the movie and the fake history behind it are bogus. NASA was never involved, they were following White House directives to select from test pilots, for reasons that looked prudent at the time and that were fully vindicated by incidents on the early flights. The women had not been through the much more grueling jet pilot and test pilot careers, which selected out pilots with the special ability to function intelligently under lethal stress. Women had not been allowed in those careers because they were considered too dangerous, as they were — if thee women had been allowed to enter that process, by the time they reached astronaut selection most would already have been killed or quit flying from broken nerves — as were the men in the same process. Skipping that step wasn’t just unfair, it was dangerous to put anyone into lethal danger unlike anything they had ever encountered before.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 12:51pm

This never happened

Yes, it did. As soon as Lovelace’s testing of the women required the use of NASA facilities, NASA shut him and them down.

Women had not been allowed in those careers because they were considered too dangerous

And that’s not pure sexism?

by the time they reached astronaut selection most would already have been killed or quit flying from broken nerves

This applies to men as well. Your point?

it was dangerous to put anyone into lethal danger unlike anything they had ever encountered before.

No men had encountered the stress and danger of space travel before either.

But congrats on jumping right in to double down on the sexism! You’re a real man.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 2:53pm

The point is that in facing potentially lethal dangers you prudently choose a population that has already faced and overcome such mind-blowing dangers. Test pilots had been through it and the survivors proved they could. The women pilots had not been through the same wringer [and had not died or ran away — as many men had done, too] so nobody could predict their performance under such stresses. Yes, women were barred from such experiences, for social-cultural reasons of that era [and consequently had not been killed or crippled in numbers like the men had been — that was considered a GOOD thing in that sexist era], but NASA had nothing to do with that. The bottom line should be WHICH approach — focus on skills or focus on stunts — led to the best equality of opportunity. Compare the modern role of women in the US astronaut program to the role in the Russian program, which do you prefer?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 7:05pm

Again, no one had faced the dangers of space travel.

nobody could predict their performance under such stresses.

Lovelace developed the tests to determine who would handle those stresses. If you trust that he got that right with the men, why don’t you trust that he knew what he was talking about when he said the women came through those tests better?

focus on skills or focus on stunts

Are you suggesting that sending a test pilot WHO DOES NOT PILOT up on rocket was not a “stunt”?

Compare the modern role of women in the US astronaut program to the role in the Russian program, which do you prefer?

Apples and oranges, and an attempt at derailing.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 8:15pm

“Lovelace developed the tests to determine who would handle those stresses. If you trust that he got that right with the men, why don’t you trust that he knew what he was talking about when he said the women came through those tests better?” It’s impossible to make somebody really believe they’re going to die while they know deep down they’re sitting In a laboratory, that’s why people who had undergone genuine do-or-die crises and kept their heads had to be identified by actual performance. Yes, the women were not permitted into those high-hazard flying duties, that’s worth complaining about. But NASA had nothing to do with that barrier, OR for selecting from the pool of test pilots.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 10:59am

NASA refused to let the women be tested on the very criteria you say is essential for determining their suitability, but that’s not down to NASA?

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 5:48pm

This is the crux of the complaint. Now, you object to NASA not doing something you think they should have. Fair enough. But what exactly did they DO — what actions or orders did they perform — to stop others doing it?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 10:48pm

Sure, that’s the solution: Let everyone set up their own spaceflight programs!

I don’t think you have any idea how many clichés of defending sexism you’re engaging in.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Thu, May 17, 2018 1:55am

You’re right, I don’t. Can anybody generously enlighten me?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Thu, May 17, 2018 10:30am

I’m not your feminist mommy. Do your own damn research. Google is your friend.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 6:04pm

“NASA refused to let the women be tested ” — Refused to ‘let’ or refused to pay?

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  Jim Oberg
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 6:41pm

Speaking of cheap debate tricks…

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 10:02pm

[grin] Well, I opened the line of thought… But I really am asking for clarification. What is it exactly that NASA did in 1961 [the time of the tests] that you think they should have done differently, and why? Do you think they really could have flown the first woman into orbit before the Soviets did?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 10:51pm

Do you think they really could have flown the first woman into orbit before the Soviets did?

Who said anything about this?

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, Apr 28, 2018 5:27pm

It was a major talking point in the Congressional hearings at the time — not the current program, sorry.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Tue, May 08, 2018 7:35pm

And it’s nothing to do with this documentary!

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 3:28pm

“As soon as Lovelace’s testing of the women required the use of NASA facilities, NASA shut him and them down.” == The way I heard the story, when Lovelace scheduled some US Navy facilities [not NASA] for further screening, the Navy asked who was paying, and when Lovelace said it was for NASA [it wasn’t], the Navy, reasonably, asked NASA, who answered [accurately] they had never heard of the project and had not budgeted it. NASA did nothing. How does that show ‘NASA shut it down’??

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 7:00pm

The way you heard the story. Have you seen the documentary?

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 9:34pm

I’ve seen the reality — and know the central players since the 1960s.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 11:11am

And your subjective perspective is, of course, 100 percent objectively factual.

Got it.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 5:52pm

We all contribute our subjective interpretations of our experiences and observations. The fact remains, no male pilot with the flight experience of these fine women would have ever been selected for astronaut training in those years. We differ on whether those criteria were justifiable in that era.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 10:49pm

We differ on whether those criteria were justifiable in that era.

You say that like it’s not the very definition of the issue!

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  Jim Oberg
Fri, Apr 27, 2018 1:32am

Back to your assertion == “As soon as Lovelace’s testing of the women required the use of NASA facilities, NASA shut him and them down.” I suggest that is factual wrong. Lovelace never requested use of NASA facilities, the only facilities NASA had control over. Do you concede this?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Fri, Apr 27, 2018 8:41pm

No, I concede nothing. I am relaying what the film discusses, with documents to back it up.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, Apr 28, 2018 12:07am

What NASA facilities were denied to Lovelace?

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  Jim Oberg
Tue, May 01, 2018 3:14am

???

Robert P
Robert P
reply to  Jim Oberg
Fri, May 04, 2018 5:26am

“But NASA said, basically, “No freakin’ way.”” ==
This never happened, the movie and the fake history behind it are
bogus….

The way I heard the story…

I’ve seen the reality…

Jim
– you say the documentary’s story is fake – what are your sources on this? I too had never heard of this program.
I’m curious to know who’s right. Or perhaps you’re both partially
right.

For that matter – MaryAnn – what are your sources other than the documentary?

FWIW – I’m 6’4″, can bench-press your house, was in the military and am physically fairly tough but I doubt I’d get through the astronaut or fighter pilot tests from what I’ve seen. I don’t do well with spinning around – can’t do whirl-around rides at fairs etc.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Robert P
Tue, May 08, 2018 7:33pm

For that matter – MaryAnn – what are your sources other than the documentary?

The documentary offers original sources.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Tue, May 08, 2018 7:32pm

Watch the damn movie.

sophiya
sophiya
reply to  Jim Oberg
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 2:59pm

movie [in darkness] starring famous actors,

very good storyline, let’s see here: BEEHDMOVIE.BLOGSPOT.COM

RogerBW
RogerBW
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 10:40am

In the Mercury phase in particular, what the astronauts had to do was stay conscious, not panic, press the buttons when they were told to, and look good for the camera. There was no justification for the test-pilot-only selection, either before or after the fact, and there is plenty of contemporary documentation for this. (And of course Valentina wasn’t a test pilot either.)

By the time Gemini came along there was the beginning of some actual piloting to be done.

(I note from that newspaper article that Janey Hart doesn’t even get a name of her own, and the most important things about her are her husband, hair colour, and reproductive success. Below the stars there’s a mention that she’s actually done something in her own right.)

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  RogerBW
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 2:58pm

“In the Mercury phase in particular, what the astronauts had to do was stay conscious, not panic, press the buttons when they were told to, and look good for the camera. ” == This is mind-bogglingly reality-defiant ignorance [for example, the pilot was rarely in radio contact with Earth]. From the start, pilots as both backup and often primary controllers of the vehicle, especially under unexpected situations which cropped up on most of the missions, was the core design philosophy. You’re confusing NASA with the Soviet automated capsules, and even there, pilot awareness and intervention could be important.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 3:00pm

Two commanders meet — women in space, US versus Russian approaches…
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/988/1

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 8:34pm

Are you suggesting that sending a test pilot WHO DOES NOT PILOT up on rocket was not a “stunt”? == All you’re doing here is showing how unfamiliar you are with the actual role of a Mercury astronaut in flight. You have good grounds for complaining about the institutional barriers in the 1950s against women in military fields such as flying jets. If you personally could become better acquainted with what piloting a high-performance and statistically dangerous vehicle actually involves [and nothing is stopping you], your point could be made a lot stronger. Or you could ask Eileen Collins, who happens to be an acquaintance of mine from NASA days and ever since.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 11:05am

Collins appears in this film.

You’re not seriously suggesting that unless I have experience piloting “a high-performance and statistically dangerous vehicle,” I cannot comment on any of this? (And of course there’s PLENTY STOPPING ME from acquiring such knowledge. Money, for one thing. Flight school is expensive and time intensive.) Anyway, I am making no claim to have such knowledge.

You are the one claiming — as so many men often do — that there are good and reasonable justifications what is, in fact, pure sexism, that the barriers placed in front of women are necessary. And you haven’t proven that. At all.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 5:54pm

I have come to doubt that anything could prove it to you, but some of your readers may be more open to my arguments — THANK YOU for allowing them to remain for general viewing.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 10:50pm

I don’t delete comments merely for disagreeing with me. You have no call to suggest that I do.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Thu, May 17, 2018 1:50am

To be explicit — you are correct and any insinuation otherwise is out of bounds.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 6:06pm

Placing silly ideas in the mouths of your debate opponent is an old trick in college debate, been there, done that.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 8:40pm

Compare women’s status in spaceflight in the US and Russia? “Apples and oranges, and an attempt at derailing.” — I answered all your questions, why are you unwilling to answer mine? The answer is obvious — where we are in the US, with regard to women’s access to spaceflight, is vastly more advanced than in Russia. You can disagree with my assertion that the reason we are so far ahead is that we didn’t get diverted into symbolic stunts, by all means let’s discuss that. But you shouldn’t overlook the simple fact that, for whatever reason, we ARE very far ahead and should be proud of it.

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  Jim Oberg
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 9:54pm

I’m going to repeat a quote from Toni Morrison that I find myself posting over and over again:

The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.

There’s always a perfectly reasonable explanation for the way things are. There couldn’t be female astronauts because there were no female test pilots. There aren’t many films starring African-Americans because they don’t make money in the “international market.” There aren’t many female mathematicians because girls just aren’t good at math.

And some of those reasons are valid, or seem valid at the time. And some of them are tangents and distractions. A lot of them are people saying, “I’m just one person. I can’t change the system.” And they’re not really wrong, but someone needs to change the system, and someone should have changed the system back then, because the system is lousy, and it’s been lousy for a very long time.

And you can say: Well, yes, but that doesn’t change the facts because Russia and because test pilots and because NASA budget… But there are always too many people saying, “Well, historically speaking…” and not enough people working for change.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  Danielm80
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 12:51am

On this subject, women’s equal access to spaceflight, we HAVE the change, and it came about by broadening access and encouraging participation. We’re now where I think both of us wanted to be. NASA’s approach provided the solid foundation of qualifications, not the mercurial whims of stunt-hungry propagandists. Women have measured up — why aren’t you proud of that? Do you even know the names of the five women-astronauts who have lost their lives for space light?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 11:12am

empty gestures and tokenism

Keep digging.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  Danielm80
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 3:15am

“I’m going to repeat a quote from Toni Morrison that I find myself posting over and over again:” == Come on, grapple with the factual issues in dispute. Please.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 11:13am

Racism — and sexism — are deeply, deeply factual.

White men thinking they can explain them away with “reason” is also deeply, deeply factual.

Tom Rose
Tom Rose
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, May 14, 2018 6:31pm

You’re one of the most racist and sexist people I’ve encountered for a long time

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  Tom Rose
Tue, May 15, 2018 3:56pm

You sweet summer child.

Tom Rose
Tom Rose
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Tue, May 15, 2018 5:13pm

Pardon?

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  Tom Rose
Thu, May 17, 2018 1:49am

This has been an exhilarating clash of intelligent viewpoints by sincere, fair-minded people, that in my experience is all too rare these days. Kudos to the host.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Tom Rose
Tue, May 15, 2018 4:35pm

Citations needed.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 11:10am

“Symbolic stunts.”

This is the crux of disagreement. Opportunities for women are not “stunts,” or “symbolic” You are making the precise argument I said in the review that I’m sick to death of, that men are just naturally better suited to whatever jobs men want to keep to themselves, and that the “best person for a job” is never going to be a woman.

for whatever reason

And you think, with absolutely no justification, that reason is that women were denied the chance to fly early on.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 7:37pm

Sorry I wasn’t clear. Thanks for giving me a chance to elaborate. The men and women we now have operating our spacecraft are all the best for the job. The now-obsolete problem at the very dawn of the space age was that women had been locked out of professions where the presence of such special skills was most clearly demonstrated [often, the ONLY way they could reliably be demonstrated], so skipping such filtering added unknowns to an endeavor that was already tremendously hazardous in the face of known AND unknown ‘unknowns’. Yes, it was unfair to the individuals [and it also saved the lives of a significant number of them, but I agree they SHOULD have had the option to make that choice themselves]. Their contribution was in making the unfairness visible enough to set changes in motion and push them along. Aren’t we only arguing about the speed of that cultural transition, and who — if anyone — were the clowns and the villains?

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  Jim Oberg
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 5:46pm

That happened because somebody – somebody else, certainly not you – looked at the situation and realized, correctly, that there was no reason for it to be otherwise. That all the justifications that had been used for two decades were flawed. Women didn’t suddenly become capable of being qualified as pilots and astronauts. It’s not like we started putting something in the water in 1942 and had to wait for those girls to grow up. They were allowed, by people who looked at the status quo, and asked “Why are we like this?” People very much not like you.

Jim, let me be honest with you. Your claims of personal knowledge suggest that you’re an old man. Which means you’ll be dead soon. And we’ll no longer have to explain why this is a story of a wrong never really made right.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 6:10pm

Which means you’ll be dead soon.

Unnecessary.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  Bluejay
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 6:35pm

“Truth never triumphs—its opponents just die out.” – Max Planck

Personally I fine the paraphrase “Science advances one funeral at a time” to be pithier, but this version is more relevant.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 7:49pm

Yeah but you’re talking directly to a human being here and telling him “It’ll be a good thing when you die.” That’s not an argument, that’s just being an asshole.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  Bluejay
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 8:55pm

I can appreciate that perspective.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  Bluejay
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 10:14pm

If you REALLY want to see shrieking, check out what some people on youtube say when I tell them that yes, the Apollo missions occurred as reported, and no, the astronauts didn’t encounter aliens out there, and yes, the Soviets really DID try to beat the US but failed and then lied that they never had tried. And that the bizarre streaks and spirals and circles in the skies around the world in recent years really ARE missiles and rockets, they are Earth’s spacecraft not others’.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 10:46pm

Please do not liken criticisms of the space race as sexist with conspiracy theories.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Thu, Apr 26, 2018 4:14am

I didn’t realize you were criticizing the space race. The US won. The USSR collapsed. The world is better off with that result, IMHO. And women’s access to human spaceflight is better off, again IMHO, with the NASA approach versus the Soviet approach.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Jim Oberg
Thu, Apr 26, 2018 4:38am

She’s criticizing the *sexism* that permeated the space race, as it permeated the wider society. And saying the Soviets were worse for women doesn’t mean NASA/America isn’t deserving of criticism. Just because there may be a worse problem somewhere else doesn’t mean the problem HERE isn’t worth talking about.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  Bluejay
Thu, Apr 26, 2018 5:38pm

“She’s criticizing the *sexism* that permeated the space race, as it permeated the wider society” — I get it. And the gender barriers in the military kept women from following the jet pilot pathway that was specified for astronaut selection. I think the requirement was a justifiable one then to identify candidates with a particular skill of thinking straight under lethal terror [and I’ve never been shown any other diagnostic procedure for this skill less severe than military combat], and have been delighted that military training opened up and we have the fully-qualified women astronauts nowadays. We all agree what the military should have done differently. What specifically should NASA have done differently in that era? Just waive the only test known to measure a person’s ability to remain mentally functional under mortal terror, and hope for the best?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Thu, Apr 26, 2018 6:14pm

the only test known to measure a person’s ability to remain mentally functional under mortal terror,

???????

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, Apr 28, 2018 5:37pm

The flying environment that women were restricted to in those years was far less hazardous than the one faced by the astronaut candidate pool. Look at the numbers. WASP experience in WW2, about 3% of the women were killed. First three astronaut classes in the Moon Race, a quarter of the men were killed, about the same rate as in a jet flying career or test piloting. That factor wasn’t just a formality, it provided a filter to determine candidates with particular mental resilience. Men and women presumably have the quality in equal proportions, but the women who did were not subjected to the ordeals that identified which. That ‘protection’ went away long ago, women have now died in proportionate numbers, based on their OWN choices, not those made for them by others. Do you know the names of the five women-astronauts who have died on duty?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Tue, May 08, 2018 7:38pm

Do you know the names of the five women-astronauts who have died on duty?

Quit it with this gatekeeping.

based on their OWN choices, not those made for them by others

What the hell is this supposed to mean? Are you suggesting that the Mercury 13 were just puppets of someone else and that they weren’t willing to take whatever risks would be involved in being astronauts?

You seem to have a very dim view of women.

That factor wasn’t just a formality, it provided a filter to determine candidates with particular mental resilience.

I’m done with this. The entire point of the film under discuss is that these “requirements” were not fair. You disagree. Fine.

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  Jim Oberg
Thu, Apr 26, 2018 10:15am

Would you ask, “Why do people keep making documentaries about Martin Luther King, Jr., and the fight against segregation now that we’ve had a black president?”

Or would you ask, “Why do women keep complaining about the wage gap and the glass ceiling when there are women in the Middle East who aren’t allowed to drive?”

If you wouldn’t, then maybe you can start to see the problem.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  Danielm80
Thu, Apr 26, 2018 5:41pm

Why the viciousness of criticism of NASA-1961 and the astronauts? Didn’t Glenn become a respected US Senator?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Thu, Apr 26, 2018 6:16pm

My criticism is about the subject matter of this film. You may rest assured that I have plenty more to go around.

And what the hell goes John Glenn as a senator have to do with ANY of this?

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Jim Oberg
Thu, Apr 26, 2018 7:23pm

Nowhere in the review does she criticize the quality or character of the astronauts themselves.

For someone who seems to have spent a lot of time debunking false assertions, you’re making quite a few yourself. Are you sure this is the best use of your time, Jim?

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  Bluejay
Fri, Apr 27, 2018 1:38am

Indeed, yes. To get my arguments in order I need to expose them to the most intelligent and cooperative opponents of those ideas that I can find, and I’m extremely grateful for the latitude my host has allowed me. And to the best shots that the critics have offered. I take none of them personally.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Jim Oberg
Fri, Apr 27, 2018 2:19am

Then you’d better find some better arguments instead of throwing strawmen and red herrings left and right.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  Bluejay
Sat, Apr 28, 2018 12:09am

OK.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  Jim Oberg
Tue, May 01, 2018 3:17am

Nobody has offered any evidence that these accusations are true.

Stacy Livitsanis
Stacy Livitsanis
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 12:04pm

I’d heard many years ago that women were tested and found to be obviously qualified for space travel but denied any chance because of sexism. Took a bloody long time for a doco to be made about it. For the same reasons? Might do a double feature with this and the Hedy Lamarr documentary, then try not to gnaw my fist off in frustration at what should have been.

I’m still processing that a good friend *complained* about the racial and gender diversity shown in the background cast of The Last Jedi. It reeked of what you mention here. These are the consequences from the accumulated absorption of absurdly biased and imbalanced media and historical depictions creating a false impression of gendered ability and eligible participation. It’s why so many people don’t think for a second when watching the original Star Wars that the cast are 99% white men. Still love the film, but we know now and should have known then, as many unnoticed people did, that that was ridiculous (especially considering the amount of bizarre alien creatures everywhere). Surely it’s obvious that the same goes for actual sexist history?

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  Stacy Livitsanis
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 7:39pm

It may be more nuanced than that. My essay on genuine women’s achievements in space: “Two commanders meet”
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/988/1

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jim Oberg
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 10:44pm

You’ve made your point. No need to post the same link to your own work twice.

Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Thu, Apr 26, 2018 4:14am

Noted.

Bluejay
Bluejay
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 10:55pm

Jim, I appreciate your work at NASA and your debunking of hoaxes, but apart from Dr. Rocketscience’s assholish comment, I found his first paragraph entirely rational and logical. I’m with him and MaryAnn on this issue. Just so you know.

Laurie Mann
Laurie Mann
Fri, May 04, 2018 9:42pm

I remember hearing about this story years ago, but I was under the impression it was only a very few women who were involved. I hope this documentary either comes to Pittsburgh or to HBO – I’d absolutely be there!

Bluejay
Bluejay
Thu, May 10, 2018 1:24am

Fun fact: Jerrie Cobb is very likely the inspiration for Helen Cobb, a Marvel character who is a record-breaking pilot, member of the Mercury 13, and friend and mentor to Captain Marvel. And I see that that movie has just cast Annette Bening in some unspecified role…
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Jim Oberg
Jim Oberg
reply to  Bluejay
Thu, May 17, 2018 1:09am

Nice link, thanks. “Fun fact”? Actually, it’s a comic book, not a history book, you have them confused. Every statement attributed to the fictional character is factually at odds with the actual events and results of the so-called ‘Mercury-3’ activity. PLEASE seek a firmer factual foundation for your ideological outlooks.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Jim Oberg
Thu, May 17, 2018 3:08am

Are you being deliberately obtuse, Jim? The “fun fact” is that the character is INSPIRED BY the real person. As to the veracity of the facts around that person, go litigate that somewhere else, I’m not interested. I have no reason to disbelieve the facts as presented in the documentary and other accounts, simply because YOU say so, with no hard evidence to back it up. And I certainly don’t appreciate your condescension.

You’ve ground your axe here long enough, I think. You’ve made your case, time to let it go.