There were seven original Mercury astronauts in this country. They dubbed this woman, gracing the cover of Look magazine in February 1960, “7 1/2.”
Betty Skelton was the only woman to undergo all of the physical and psychological tests given to those astronauts at the start of the nation’s space program.
But she’d already established her bona fides. She was one the first women aerobatic pilots. She had no other choice if she wanted to fly because neither the military nor commercial airlines would hire a woman pilot.
She became a test pilot and flew just about every kind of machine, then took up auto racing and set speed records for stock cars.
Bob Collins has been with Minnesota Public Radio since 1992, emigrating to Minnesota from Massachusetts. He was senior editor of news in the ’90s, ran MPR’s political unit, created the MPR News regional website, invented the popular Select A Candidate, started the two most popular blogs in the history of MPR and every day laments that his Minnesota Fantasy Legislature project never caught on.
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