Not the Sex but the Ability
Lydia Maria Adams DeWitt (b. 02-01-1859)
was an American experimental pathologist whose experiments led to the development
of tuberculosis treatment. LMD taught at a number of universities including
University of Chicago (1912-26).
"I'll be back,"
vowed the first American woman astronaut pilot to her hometown of Elmira,
New York, as her appearance in an April, 1995 triumphant parade before
20,000 of her hometown neighbors was cancelled by NASA officials following
a second death threat.
02-02-1995 - Wearing a scarf that belonged to Amelia Earhart and carrying
the pilot's license of early endurance flight champion Bobbi Trout, Lt.
Colonel Eileen Collins, 38, lifted off from Cape Canaveral in the co-pilot's
seat as the first woman to pilot an American space craft.
She also carried items belonging to members of the
Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II and items from the women
who applied and passed initial tests in NASA's Mercury program.
An Air Force test pilot, she was selected for the
NASA space program in 1990, the first woman chosen as a space shuttle pilot.
Eighteen of NASA's astronauts are women serving in scientific roles.
Personally invited by Collins (not NASA) to witness
the blastoff were some of the women who tried out for the initial Mercury
program in the 1950s, who did exceptionally well (better than the men),
and then were turned down because - shock! - they were women!
In June 1963, Valentina Terreshkova, Soviet cosmonaut
became the first woman in space. She manually controlled Vostok-6 during
parts of the 70.8-hour flight through 48 orbits of earth.
The first American woman in space was Sally Ride,
who used the shuttle robot arm to release and retrieve satellites. The
first American woman to perform a spacewalk was Kathryn Sullivan, who practiced
techniques for refueling satellites, and Kathryn Thorntorn went outside
the shuttle to assist the repair of the Hubble Space telescope.
The first women to die in space were Judith Resnick,
the second American woman in space, and Christa McAuliffe, the first civilian
when Challenger exploded shortly after launch at Cape Canaveral, FL, 01-28-1986.
Fast forward to 07-23-1999 - Five seconds into
launch, warning alarms almost drowned out the roaring rockets of the space
An electrical short had knocked out the primary computers
for two of the Columbia's engines. Fortunately, the backup computers kicked
in without a hitch.
But the electrical alarm hid a more serious problem.
Fuel cells were leaking during the eight minute flight to orbit. It forced
a lower orbit and the flight was close to being forced into a never before
performed emergency landing.
Even though the crowd on the beaches along Florida's
coast - this author among them - didn't know what was happening in that
small reddish-orange tail of burning fuel that lifted the spacecraft into
orbit, there was a singular unease as if they knew something was wrong.
But the resolve and competence of the 42-year-old
Air Force colonel at the controls never flickered. The captain's voice
was strong, confident, and resolute in the reports to Houston.
And the resolution proved once and for all (will popular
media and HIStorians please note) that it is not the sexes of the people
in any given situation that counts, but the individual's ability to perform.
And Colonel Eileen Collins, the first woman to captain
a spacecraft, performed perfectly.
She captained without hesitation through the difficulties
and she and her four person crew completed the full five day mission that
launched NASA's $1.5 billion Chandra X-ray Observatory on a five-year mission
to search for black holes and scrutinize galaxies and quasars.
NASA's first space mission commanded by a woman Air
Force Colonel Eileen Collins blasted off from Cape Canaveral in a rare
night takeoff (12:26 am) and ended five days later (07-27-99) in a rarer
night time landing (11:20 pm).
On 07-24-99, mission specialist Catherine "Cady"
Coleman was in charge of efforts to successfully deploy the Chandra X-ray
Observatory and did most of the delicate deployment herself.
QUOTES DU JOUR
be back," vowed the first American woman
astronaut pilot to her hometown of Elmira, New York, as her appearance
in an April, 1995 triumphant parade before 20,000 of her hometown neighbors
was cancelled by NASA officials following a second death threat.
Elmira citizens held the parade anyway and were incensed,
as one columnist in the local newspaper said, "We
were robbed - cruelly, callously, thoughtlessly, robbed ... of a chance
to celebrate how a little girl who once lived on welfare in Elmira could
grow up to lead humankind on one of its greatest adventures.
"Robbed of the opportunity to show Eileen Collins
how proud we are of her and how much she means to us."
CARRAWAY, HATTIE W:
sound reason why women, if they have the time and ability, shouldn't sit
with men on city councils, in state legislatures, or in the House and Senate...
Women are essentially practical because they've always had to be. From
the dawn of time it's been our job to see that both ends meet. And women
are much more realistic than men, particularly when it comes to public
questions. Of course, having had the vote for such a short time is a distinct
advantage, for we have no inheritance of political buncombe."
--Hattie W. Caraway.