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The Untold Story of Women & Space History – Sue Nelson

This show is about women in space, in science and in history. It’s only becoming mainstream knowledge now that there were many women involved in global space programs in the 1960s. As part of the Mercury 13, Wally Funk was one of the pioneering women of space travel who often outperformed male astronaut candidates in tests of endurance. But just one week before the final phase of training, the programme was abruptly cancelled. Politics and prejudice meant Wally never flew into space. Undeterred, she went on to become an accomplished pilot and America’s first female aviation safety inspector.

Today’s guest, Sue Nelson, is a physicist who has authored a book about Wally Funk and her colleagues of Mercury 13. You’ll be shocked when you hear what they went through just to take the tests – from being divorced by their husbands to losing their jobs, these ladies pursued space and science at immense personal cost. Sue wrote this book to bring their stories, experiences and learnings to a broad audience, in the hope of inspiring girls to pursue their dreams in science, and ensuring that the huge sacrifices and contributions that female aviators have made do not get left out of history books.

Sue Nelson is an award-winning science journalist and broadcaster, formerly a BBC science correspondent and Radio 4 presenter. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

This episode was made possible by the generous support of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Sue Nelson was a guest author of this year’s edition, where she talked about her new book Wally Funk’s Race For Space. Gift it widely!