Why, Amy E. Foster asks, did it take two decades after the
Soviet Union launched its first female cosmonaut for the United
States to send its first female astronaut into space? In answering
this question, Foster recounts the complicated history of
integrating women into NASA's astronaut corps.
NASA selected its first six female astronauts in 1978. Foster
examines the political, technological, and cultural challenges that
the agency had to overcome to usher in this new era in spaceflight.
She shows how NASA had long developed progressive hiring policies
but was limited in executing them by a national agenda to beat the
Soviets to the moon, budget constraints, and cultural ideas about
women's roles in America.
Lively writing and compelling stories, including personal
interviews with America's first women astronauts, propel Foster's
account. Through extensive archival research, Foster also examines
NASA's directives about sexual discrimination, the technological
issues in integrating women into the corps, and the popular media's
discussion of women in space. Foster puts together a truly original
study of the experiences not only of early women astronauts but
also of the managers and engineers who helped launch them into
In documenting these events, Foster offers a broader
understanding of the difficulties in sexually integrating any
workplace, even when the organization approaches the situation with
as positive an outlook and as strong a motivation as did NASA.
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