America's 1st female astronaut Jerrie Cobb passes away - Pilot Jerrie Cobb no more - Economic Times
20 April 2019
Pilot Jerrie Cobb no more
America's first female astronaut candidate, pilot Jerrie Cobb, who pushed for equality in space but never reached its heights, has died. Cobb died in Florida at age 88 on March 18 following a brief illness.
In 1961, Cobb became the first woman to pass astronaut testing. Altogether, 13 women passed the arduous physical testing and became known as the Mercury 13. But NASA already had its Mercury 7 astronauts, all jet test pilots and all military men. None of the Mercury 13 ever reached space.
Woman in space?
Instead of making her an astronaut, NASA tapped her as a consultant to talk up the space program. She was dismissed one week after commenting: "I'm the most unconsulted consultant in any government agency." She wrote in her 1997 autobiography "Jerrie Cobb, Solo Pilot," ''My country, my culture, was not ready to allow a woman to fly in space."
Service with grace
Cobb served for decades as a humanitarian aid pilot in the Amazon jungle. "She should have gone to space, but turned her life into one of service with grace," tweeted Ellen Stofan, director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum and a former NASA scientist.
Cobb and other surviving members of the Mercury 13 attended the 1995 shuttle launch of Eileen Collins, NASA's first female space pilot and later its first female space commander.
Dance on the wings
In her autobiography, Cobb described how she danced on the wings of her plane in the Amazon moonlight, when learning via radio on July 20, 1969, that Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had landed on the moon.