The Six

In honor of Women’s History Month, this week’s review spotlights the contributions of six women selected as mission specialists in 1978 and the sexism they encountered as women astronauts.

The Six: The Untold Story of America’s First Women Astronauts

Grush, Loren. Scribner, 2023
432p bibl index, 9781982172800 $32.50, 9781982172824

The Six book cover.

In the early history of NASA, astronauts were white men from the military fighter pilot ranks. While women lobbied to join the astronaut corps, NASA rejected their efforts and their political leadership. However, at the beginning of the Space Shuttle era in the late 1970s, NASA made a conscious effort to recruit women and more diverse candidates as astronauts. In addition, a new category of astronaut—the mission specialist, who performed a range of scientific, medical, and engineering experiments during a spaceflight mission—was created. These mission specialists typically had doctoral degrees (MD or PhD). In 1978, 6 women were selected from 8,000 applicants as mission specialists: Sally Ride, Judy Resnik, Anna Fisher, Kathy Sullivan, Shannon Lucid, and Rhea Seddon. Grush (science journalist) focuses on their individual and collective stories, illustrating the many societal and sexist challenges they faced. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, and Judith Resnik died in the 1986 Challenger explosion. All six made a unique mark on history. The book is written in a captivating and engaging style, and space enthusiasts will enjoy it.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels, especially general readers.
Reviewer
: J. Z. Kiss, University of North Carolina Greensboro
Interdisciplinary Subjects: Women’s & Gender Studies
Subject: Science & Technology – Astronautics & Astronomy
Choice Issue: Apr 2024


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