Wally Funk and author Martha Ackmann talk about the secret astronaut training 13 women underwent in 1961. Funk was among those 13 and eventually became the first female FAA analyst.
Excerpt from the Register-Mail:
“This was at a time when space, the next frontier, certainly wasn’t a place for women,” said Ackmann. “(The results) of the program were secret because they didn’t know how they’d turn out.”
Women who were accomplished in flight were recruited to go through the training in order to see if they would make good astronauts. It was suggested that the women might be better than men because they weighed less, needed less oxygen, and were better suited for sitting passively in a spacecraft for long periods of time.
Those women who were chosen to go through the training, however, took exactly the same physical tests as the men, which included at least 75 fitness, stress and medical exams.
“We took exactly the same tests as the Mercury guys and we did them better,” said Funk.
“The women didn’t whine,” said Ackmann. “They wanted to contribute something to their country.”
The 13 women went through the same training as the seven men in a similar program, but NASA abruptly ended their training in the fall of 1961.