50 Years of Women In Space

In the early 1960s, a group of women known as the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATs), and also known as the "Mercury 13", trained to become astronauts for America's first human spaceflight program. The program was created by Dr. William Randolph Lovelace who helped develop the tests for NASA's male astronauts.

Thirteen women passed the rigorous physical examinations: Jerrie Cobb, Wally Funk, Irene Leverton, Myrtle "K" Cagle, Jane B. Hart, Gene Nora Stumbough, Jerri Sloan, Rhea Hurrle, Sarah Gorelick, Bernice "B" Trimble Steadman, Jan Dietrich, Marion Dietrich, and Jean Hixson.

A few days before they were to report to Pensacola, Florida at the Naval School of Aviation Medicine to undergo advanced aeromedical examinations, the women received telegrams abruptly canceling the testing. In July 1962, the House Committee on Science and Astronautics decided that training female astronauts would hurt the space program. The women never flew to space.

It would not be until 20 years later, on June 18th, 1983, that the first American woman would fly to space. 

Although the Mercury 13 never flew to space, their sacrifices and dedication have inspired 50 years of women who have had the opportunity to make history in space. 

Flip through the gallery above to see 50 incredible years of women in space.

NEXT: Mae Jemison Reveals the Significance of the Items She Brought to Space »

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