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Mercury 13 series at Amazon to follow 1960s female test pilots in space program

Contributed by
Nov 17, 2017

While Universal Pictures is prepping First Man, a Neil Armstrong biopic that follows the famed astronaut’s 1969 historical Apollo 11 mission to the moon, a Mercury 13 event miniseries is in the works at Amazon.

According to Deadline, the miniseries will be set in 1961 and based on Martha Ackmann’s 2003 book titled The Mercury 13: The Untold Story of Thirteen American Women and the Dream of Space Flight. It follows the largely untold story of the women in the U.S.'s early space flight program.

Written by Liz Hannah (The Post), who will serve as showrunner and executive producer, Mercury 13 hails from Emmy-winning actor Bradley Whitford (Get Out), Amy Pascal’s Pascal Pictures, and Tim and Trevor White’s Star Thrower Entertainment. Whitford and Greenlight Management’s Adena Chawke (who is also exec-producing) optioned Ackmann’s book and have been hard at work to develop the project.

The Mercury 13 were a group of 13 American women who were selected to privately undergo the same battery of tests as the Mercury 7 astronauts selected by NASA on April 9, 1959, for Project Mercury. Like the men, the women (who had hopes to become the first female astronauts) were tested at the famous Lovelace Foundation, but they were not part of NASA’s astronaut program and sadly never had the chance to fly to space. Le sigh.

The program was launched by former chairman of the NASA Special Advisory Committee on Life Science William Randolph Lovelace II, who helped develop the rigorous testing the NASA astronauts had to undergo. He was curious to see how women would actually do taking the tests designed for their male counterparts.

Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb — who was already an accomplished pilot at the time — was invited in 1960 by Lovelace to undergo the tests, and she became the first American woman to not only take them, but also pass all three phases of testing. Lovelace and Cobb then recruited 19 more women (all accomplished pilots), and 13 of them passed Phase I of the same physiological tests as the guys of Mercury 7.

This being the '60s, the women were fast dismissed by NASA's “boys' club” and on Capitol Hill as well; and while the USSR sent their first female cosmonaut to space in 1963 (that'd be Valentina Tereshkova, who was followed by Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982), it took another 20 years before Sally Ride became the first American woman to go to space in 1983.

What do you think of Amazon bringing the fascinating story of the women of Mercury 13 to the small screen? 

(via Deadline)

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