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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Almost Astronauts, written by Tanya Lee Stone. Candlewick, Random House, 2009. $20.00 ages 10 and up

"It was 1961 when they took their shot at being astronauts. Back then, women weren't allowed to rent a car or take out a loan from the bank without a man's signature; they could not play on a professional sports team at all. They couldn't report the news on televsion or run in a city marathon or serve as police officers. They weren't allowed to fly jets, either. And these were just some of the bigger examples.

None of that kept these women from trying to be astronauts."

We've come a long way, baby!

Meet the 13 women who should have been real contenders for America's early space program. ALMOST ASTRONAUTS is a book that has made me aware of the fact that I had never heard of these women and their fight to find a place in what was then a man’s world. When NASA was created in 1958, there was an unspoken rule in place: astronauts must be male, and they must be white.

While these brilliant women were capable, performed unbelievably well on all tests that needed to be passed before acceptance into the program and had all the qualifications, their dreams were not fulfilled. Their passage to space was blocked by prejudice, jealousy, and a scrawled note by a powerful man.

The author brilliantly portrays the thirteen with genuine interest in their story and the events that blocked them from being in those first spaceships. They are true pioneers of the space age. It took until 1983 for Sally Ride to be the first American woman astronaut on a Challenger flight. It gets me wondering about all of the other important stories of history that I actually lived through but have, to this point, missed out on.

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