In 2017, the film “Hidden Figures’” brought to the big screen the stories of three African American women whose calculations for NASA helped put the first American into orbit.
But those aren’t the only women who’ve broken barriers at the agency. From mathematicians to flight controllers, trainers and astronauts, these women have forged careers in a field dominated by men. Now, editor Jennifer Ross-Nazzal tells some of their stories in her new book, “Making Space for Women: Stories from Trailblazing Women of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.”
Ross-Nazzal is historian for NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and talked to Texas Standard about how she collected the stories of 21 women through NASA’s oral history project.
Listen to the interview with Ross-Nazzal in the audio player above or read excerpts below:
“Space is for everybody. I think there’s this sense that you have to be an engineer or a scientist to work at NASA, maybe a technician. But NASA hires all sorts of people like historians and divers, pilots and other folks; it takes a lot of people to make the mission run at NASA. I don’t think people recognize that.”
“I wanted to also capture some of those firsts. So we’ve got the first chief of the astronaut office, for instance – Peggy Whitson – just kind of capturing a wide breadth of that experience at the Johnson Space Center.”
“Things have definitely started to change at the center; you do see more women. And women aren’t necessarily just in administrative and secretarial positions; women are in a much wider role. And if you look across the the organizational chart … you see a lot more female faces than you definitely did in the past.“
“NASA’s working on a lot of development projects, probably more development than it has in years. And you know, I think there are plenty of opportunities for women. NASA is really focused on trying to bring in young women to work in the agency. … We’ve demonstrated that over and over again, and we are moving forward. We’re going to put the first American woman on the moon here pretty soon.”