First Woman Astronaut
Jerrie Cobb was born to fly. During the 1950’s, in the infancy of the space age, America began selecting and training the first group of Mercury Astronauts. America‚s space program did not open the ranks of its astronaut corps to women until 1978. The Lovelace Foundation for Medical Research and Education, Albuquerque, New Mexico, selected Jerrie Cobb as the first woman to undergo the same selection – testing regimen as the men who became the Mercury 7 Astronauts.
After weeks of grueling physical and psychological fitness testing, Jerrie Cobb passed all phases with flying colors. Lovelace administrators were amazed at how well she performed her tests. She was then asked to recruit 25 additional qualified women pilots to participate in the aerospace medicine research, at the U. S. Navy Aerospace Medical Center, Pensacola, Florida. This Space Program for Women‰ was the first program officially adopted for women. Of the initial 25 pilots, 12 women were selected to participate with Jerrie Cobb, aviation pioneer.
While still in her twenties, Jerrie set four world‚s aviation records for speed, distance and altitude. In White House ceremonies, the former President Richard Nixon awarded Jerrie the prestigious Harmon Trophy, as top woman pilot. The governments of France, Brazil, Peru, Columbia and Ecuador have all honored Jerrie Cobb.
In 1961 Jerrie Cobb added the helicopter to her growing lists of conquests at Bell Helicopter Company’s Fort Worth plant. She soloed in a Bell 47G-2A after only 83 minutes of dual flight instruction. Upon receiving her license she became Whirly Girl # 53. In the 1960s when NASA would not yet allow women to explore outer space, Jerrie set her disappointments aside and used her 1950’s competencies to serve the primitive people of the Amazon jungle. For 35 years, she found joy and delight in flying over the enormous uncharted Amazon jungle, delivering hope, seeds and help to her Latin American friends. For her humanitarian work in the Amazon jungle, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Jerrie’s fabulous flying career spanning more than half a century is a rich tapestry of adventure, continuing on today as Jerrie pursues her deep love of the sky, and her continuing passion to fly in space.