Women with the Right Stuff

The first footsteps on the Moon were one giant step for 'man', but from the early days of aeronautics women have also been involved in space travel. Presenter, pilot and aspiring astronaut Wally Funk pays tribute to the pioneers, meets some of those involved within today’s space industry, and hears from the woman who might be among the crew for the first human mission to Mars.

Wally has first hand experience of the early days of space travel in America. She undertook secret tests to become an astronaut in 1961 and, along with 12 other female pilots, passed the extremely tough physical tests to become an unofficial member of the ‘Mercury 13’ – the women who, given a chance, could have gone into space before Russia’s Valentina Tereshkova made history.

Wally hears from astronauts Jessica Meir, Helen Sharman, Eileen Collins and Samantha Cristoforetti; mission control flight director Mary Lawrence; space historian David J Shayler; and shares her 1961 astronaut medical tests with NASA flight surgeon Shannan Moynihan. Over 50 years after those tests, Wally is still flying (she takes her producer above Dallas in a Cessna) but she is yet to get into space. However Wally is on the waiting list for one of the first commercial space tourism flights and is prepared to make history as yet another woman with the right stuff. This is a Boffin Media production for BBC World Service.

Available now

50 minutes

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