The woman who could’ve been an original astronaut


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.

She was 85 when she died yesterday.