In her new book, “The Six: The Untold Stories of America’s First Women Astronauts,” author Loren Grush delves into the fascinating and often overlooked experiences of the women who trained alongside Sally Ride in NASA’s first coed astronaut class. While Ride’s selection for the historic space shuttle Challenger flight captured the nation’s attention, Grush seeks to shed light on the stories of the other women who also vied for this opportunity.
Grush’s book uncovers the challenges and pressures faced by these pioneering women during their first flights and the barrage of sexist questions they encountered along the way. Despite their impressive accomplishments and qualifications, the media often reduced them to stereotypes, referring to them as “girls” or “ladies in space.” Journalists asked them intrusive questions about weeping and even romance in outer space.
These women, known as “The Six,” were part of NASA Astronaut Group 8, a diverse group that also included three African Americans and one Asian American. They shared a common trait – none of them had been trained as pilots, but they brought valuable expertise as scientists, doctors, and engineers to the space program. The addition of the role of “mission specialist” allowed NASA to expand its criteria and attract individuals with diverse backgrounds.
Grush’s book also highlights the lack of diversity in NASA at the time. It took a major recruiting effort and the influence of the civil rights and feminist movements to push for change. More than 1,500 women applied to become astronauts between 1976 and 1977, and eventually, the group was narrowed down to The Six.
“The Six: The Untold Stories of America’s First Women Astronauts” provides a necessary retrospective on the experiences of these trailblazing women. Grush’s exploration of their challenges and achievements serves as a reminder of the progress made in gender equality and diversity in the space industry.
– Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
– “The Six: The Untold Stories of America’s First Women Astronauts” by Loren Grush