When the original NASA Mercury program to train astronauts was set up, a group of women who wanted to be part of the program were subjected to the same physical tests as the men. The result?
The women matched — and sometimes surpassed — the results of the men, but not everyone was impressed.
John Glenn told Congress that women pilots were against our “social order.” Vice President Lyndon Johnson wrote, “Let’s stop this now” on a memo to NASA.
NPR had a story about this yesterday that said that the wives had to maintain the image that the astronauts had perfect traditional families even though it was some of the wives who had to work to put their husbands through school. As one of them Renee Carpenter said, “One of the early prerequisites was ‘no solid marriage, no space flight’. We were entertaining machines, eyes glued on our husbands’ careers.”
Now of course, women are all over the space program, taking leadership roles, and proving themselves to be perfectly capable. But they could have achieved that much earlier if not for people trying to maintain the ‘natural’ order of things, which often means nothing more than the way things are right now and what people are comfortable with.