The ‘Rise of the Rocket Girls’: The untold story of the women who powered NASA

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    The computers of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1953. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltec)

    The computers of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1953. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltec)

    The people diligently working on the mathematical calculations behind some of NASA’s early space explorations were women. Their story went overlooked for decades, until writer Nathalia Holt stumbled across it accidentally. 

    When picturing the offices of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the 1940s, you might imagine a group of men, possibly clad in white lab coats, hunched over outdated machinery.

    Instead, it looked much more like this:

    rocketgirl1

    The women of NASA’s JPL hard at work in 1955. (Courtesy NASA/ JPL-Caltech)

    That’s right — the people diligently working on the mathematical calculations behind some of NASA’s most famous space explorations were, in fact, women. A group of women, sometimes called “computers.”

    Their story went overlooked for decades, until science writer Nathalia Holt stumbled across it accidentally.

    In 2010, Holt and her husband were expecting a baby. They were having that classic debate over names, and her husband suggested “Eleanor Francis.” So, as 21st century parents do, Holt took to the internet to Google the name. What came up, was a woman accepting an award at NASA in the 1960s. When Holt dug deeper, she found the story of these women.

    She tells their story in her book, “Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us From Missiles To The Moon To Mars”.

    Listen to the full interview with Nathalia Holt above. 

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