CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – The first astronaut candidate in America, pilot Jerry Cobb, who pressed for equality in space, but never reached the peak, died.
Cobb died in Florida at the age of 88 on March 18 after a brief illness. The news of his death came Thursday from journalist Miles O'Brien, serving as the family's spokesman.
In 1961, Cobb became the first woman to pass the astronaut test. In all, 13 women passed the arduous physical test and became known as Mercury 13. But NASA already had its Mercury 7 astronauts, all jetster pilots and all the military.
None of the Mercury 13 made it to space, despite Cobb's testimony in 1962 before a congressional panel.
"We are only looking for a place in the future of our nation's space without discrimination," she told a special House subcommittee on astronaut selection.
Instead of making her an astronaut, NASA called her as a consultant to talk about the space program. She was dismissed a week after commenting, "I'm the most unadvised consultant to any government agency."
She wrote in her 1997 autobiography "Jerrie Cobb, Solo Pilot," "My country, my culture, was not ready to let a woman fly in space."
Cobb served for decades as a humanitarian aid pilot in the Amazon jungle.
"She should have gone into space but transformed her life into a service with grace," said Ellen Stofan, director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum and a former NASA scientist.
The Soviet Union eventually put the first woman in space in 1963: Valentina Tereshkova. NASA did not pilot a woman in space – Sally Ride – until 1983.
Cobb and other surviving members of Mercury 13 participated in the launch of the 1995 space shuttle of Eileen Collins, NASA's first space pilot and later its first female space commander.
"Jerrie Cobb was the inspiration for many of our members in their record breaking, their desire to go into space and only to prove that women could do what men could do," said Laura Ohrenberg, manager of the Oklahoma headquarters City for Ninety. -Nines Inc., an international women's licensed pilot organization.
Still hopeful, Cobb emerged in 1998 to give more space to space, while NASA was preparing to launch Mercury astronaut John Glenn – the first American to orbit the world – at Discovery, at age 77.
Cobb argued that the geriatric spatial study should also include an older woman.
"I would give my life to fly in space, I would really," Cobb told The Associated Press at the age of 67 in 1998. "It's hard for me to talk about it, but I would. .
"It just did not work, and I hope and pray now," he added.
It was not. NASA has never flown with another person in space, male or female.
Geraldyn Cobb was born on March 5, 1931, in Norman, Oklahoma, the second daughter of a military pilot and his wife. She flew with her father's biplane Waco biplane at the age of 12 and obtained her private pilot license four years later.
The story of Mercury 13 is told in a recent documentary by Netflix and a play based on Cobb's life, "They Pledged It to the Moon," is currently on display in San Diego.
In her autobiography, Cobb described how she danced on the wings of her airplane in the Amazon moonlight, when she learned on July 20, 1969, that Neil Armstrong of Apollo 11 and Buzz Aldrin had landed on the moon.
She wrote, "Yes, I would like to be on the moon with my fellow pilots, exploring another celestial body. How I would love to see our beautiful blue planet Earth floating in the darkness of space. And see the stars and galaxies in their true brilliance, without the filter of our atmosphere. But I'm happy flying here in the Amazon, serving my brothers. "Happy, Lord, happy." I am happy, Lord, happy.