Rocket women, the untold story.
At the time when curiosities about the outer space surfaced, there were not much of computers to do the task of calculating necessary data in propelling men outside the Earth. The lack of digital devices urged NASA to employ humans, mostly women, to do the job.
In the early years of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) were women regarded as its computers. They were tasked to do the hefty job of performing calculations needed for the male engineering staff to design rocket engines, calculate trajectories, and related tasks.
These women were the key people in JPL’s first important projects like missiles and satellites, including United States’ first, the Explorer 1. The laboratory soon became part of NASA and so were the women, which were instrumental to the early spaceflight projects of the space station, including the Ranger series of lunar missions and the Mariner missions to Venus and Mars.
Rocket Women (Source: NASA)
With the advent of electronic computers, women at the laboratory were challenged to compete only with their slide rules, logarithmic tables, and simple calculators. This shift enabled them from doing calculations to writing codes – they have become computer programmers from being computers. Eventually, as women are more accommodated to industries, they have become engineers and managers at the lab.
These stories of the women almost unappreciated at the time they were at the peak are outlined in the book Rise of the Rocket Girls written by Nathalia Holt. She narrated the personal experiences of these women from the inception of JPL almost up to the present day. The book features the essential contributions of women in the development of spaceflight that were not acknowledged in the past.
Rocket Women (Source: Hachette Book Group)
More women in the modern age have become part of NASA’s laboratories especially JPL but history books don’t tell us about their involvements – and that includes the stories of the Rocket Women, the unsung heroes of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.