cover image The Six: The Untold Story of America’s First Women Astronauts

The Six: The Untold Story of America’s First Women Astronauts

Loren Grush. Scribner, $32.50 (416p) ISBN 978-1-982172-80-0

Bloomberg News reporter Grush debuts with a satisfactory history of the first six American women astronauts: Anna Fisher, Shannon Lucid, Judy Resnik, Sally Ride, Rhea Seddon, and Kathy Sullivan. Grush traces the long path to the groundbreaking class of 1978, to which all six belonged, noting that a previous female cohort in the early 1960s was scrapped because “figuring out if women could fly to space” was seen as a distraction from the moon landing. The calculus changed in 1976 when NASA, hoping to counteract bad press from the firing of a whistleblower who criticized the agency’s lack of diversity, opened their new astronaut class to women and people of color for the first time. Grush captures the personalities of each woman, but focuses primarily on the first two to visit space: Ride, a whip-smart introvert who concealed her sexuality throughout her life, and Resnik, a talented engineer with a reputation for “navigating between being one of the guys and being a raging feminist,” as a male colleague once said. Grush also details the sexism the six endured, suggesting that Seddon’s assignment to “help craft the food systems” rather than robotics or software was likely because of her gender. Unfortunately, the author sometimes resorts to dubious speculation, particularly in the re-creation of Resnik’s mindset in the minutes before she died in the 1986 Challenger explosion. Still, this makes for a solid companion to Hidden Figures. (Sept.)