15 impressive women who made the Apollo moon missions possible
- NASA's Apollo program landed astronauts on the moon for the first time 50 years ago.
- No women have been to the moon, but women were instrumental in the success of the missions: They worked in the control room, designed flight software, and calculated backup plans.
- Here are 15 of the impressive women who made the space race possible.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Twelve people have touched the moon. None of them are women.
When President John F. Kennedy decided that the US should dedicate itself to the "impressive" and "important" goal of heading to the lunar surface in 1961, he mentioned only men.
"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon," Kennedy said.
Spaceflight historian and author Amy Sheira Teitel told Business Insider that there was one simple reason only men were selected to go to space at the time.
"When NASA recruited the first class of astronauts, they didn't know what they were in for. They figured test pilots might be the best men for the job. And by default, military test pilots were exclusively male at the time. These were men who were used to testing unproven machines in the air," Teitel said.
But women played many key roles in the success of the Apollo program.
"Women did everything that wasn't actually going to the moon," Teitel said.
Here are 15 women who helped make the July 20, 1969 moon landing possible 50 years ago.
Years before the Apollo missions, inventor Beatrice Hicks created the critical gas-density sensor that made space travel possible. NASA used it in the Saturn V rockets that launched Apollo moon missions.
Seamstresses like Eleanor Foraker sewed the astronauts' metal and plastic spacesuits by hand.
Margaret Hamilton led the team that created the onboard computer system for the Apollo missions. She coined the term "software engineering."
Mathematician Katherine Johnson worked out how Apollo 11 astronauts would get to the moon by calculating the spacecraft's trajectory.
Sheila Thibeault worked on the Apollo's rendezvous docking simulator: the critical machine in which astronauts practiced re-attaching their lunar lander to the command module in orbit.
Christine Darden was one of the many "human computer" women who processed data during the Apollo era. She wanted to know why men with the same math training were being recruited as engineers, so she asked her boss.
JoAnn Morgan, the instrumentation controller for Apollo 11, was the only woman in the firing room when the Saturn V rocket took off.
Engineer Judy Sullivan was in charge of the biomedical system on Apollo 11, tracking the astronauts heartbeats, blood pressure, breath, and body temperature in space.
Engineer Parrish Nelson Hirasaki made sure the astronauts didn't burn up when they re-entered Earth's atmosphere. She calculated the hottest points on their heat shield.
Frances "Poppy" Northcutt was the first woman in mission control at NASA. She helped make sure the Apollo astronauts' return-trajectory calculations were sound so that they'd get home safely.
Secretaries at NASA — the "Sixties Chicks," as they called themselves — were also integral to Apollo's success, since they did most of the typing of critical reports, manuals, and checklists.
And, of course, there were three women who kept things running at home while the Apollo 11 astronauts were away: Janet Armstrong, Joan Aldrin, and Pat Collins.
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