Amy Shira Teitel is a woman of many talents – she’s a space historian, YouTuber, TV host, and now, a biographical author.
On this episode of Sky’s The Limit, hosts Anna Grbas and Hannah Dowling are joined by Amy to discuss her latest biographical novel, titled Fighting for Space, which tells the story of the two talented pilots vying to become NASA’s first female astronauts, and the Mercury 13.
Amy tells us the story of Jackie Cochran and Jerrie Cobb, two record-breaking and pioneering female pilots of the early-to-mid 20th Century, who both entered the race to become NASA’s very first female pilots.
Jerrie earned her Commercial Pilot’s license on her 18th birthday in 1949, and went on to set world aviation records throughout her 20s, including the 1959 world record for nonstop long-distance flight, the 1959 world light-plane speed record, and a 1960 world altitude record for lightweight aircraft of 37,010 feet. She was also the first female pilot to fly in the Paris Air Show.
Jackie, 25 years older than Jerrie, gained her license in the 1930s, and was one of the three women to compete 1934 MacRobertson Air Race. In 1937, Jackie worked with Amelia Earhart to open up the Bendix race to women and set a new women’s speed world record that same year.
In 1959, Jackie became a sponsor of the privately-funded Mercury 13 Program, which saw 13 female pilots successfully undergo the same physical and mental screening tests as NASA astronauts, of which Jackie was one.
In the episode, Amy talks us through her new dual biography of Jerrie and Jackie, and the rivalry between them that contributed to the downfall of the Mercury 13 program.
Finally, Amy shares details of how she pieced together this incredible story, her creative process, as well as her own experience as a woman operating in the male-dominated spaces of science, history and academia.