Cover image for Almost heaven : the story of women in space
Almost heaven : the story of women in space
Kevles, Bettyann.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiii, 274 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TL789.85.A1 K48 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
TL789.85.A1 K48 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
TL789.85.A1 K48 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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When we first blasted our way into space a generation ago, we did so with men from each of the superpowers. Women were excluded from one of the most exciting adventures of the century-and not because they weren't up to the challenge. In 1962, three accomplished female pilots took their case before the U.S. Congress, but they were dismissed as unpatriotic. We were in a Cold War-a space race-and NASA had already chosen the Mercury Seven to represent America. In Almost Heaven , acclaimed writer Bettyann Kevles gives voice to the women of the space age-women who had the "right stuff," but had to struggle to prove it. Through intensive interviews and meticulous research, Kevles illuminates what makes these women tick. What were their unique concerns as female astronauts? Were they truly accepted into the astronaut corps, or were they merely "tokens"? She also poses a question that will affect generations to come: Is NASA preparing women as well as men for travel beyond Earth's orbit, or is the research still biased toward men?The stories of these forty women, told here for the first time in rich and colorful detail, explore the convergence of culture and science-and suggest the battle is far from over.

Author Notes

Bettyann Holtzman Kevles recently held the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and now teaches at Yale University.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Yale historian Kevles (Naked to the Bone) does a superb job of describing the challenges faced by female astronauts since the beginning of the space age and viewing those challenges in light of the changing status of women in society at large. She argues that NASA's sexism, from its inception in 1958 until 1978, when it first accepted female astronaut candidates actually destined to go into space, reflected popular opinion. Pressure from the growing women's movement coupled with waning popular support for space exploration led NASA to open its ranks to women. Kevles and the numerous female astronauts she interviewed assert that once the decision was made to welcome women, NASA did so quite well. Institutional sexism was not overly common, although the behavior of some male astronauts often left much to be desired. Also looking at the U.S.S.R. (and later Russia), Kevles asserts that although Valentina Tereshkova was sent into orbit in 1963, women were neither accepted as equals nor treated fairly either institutionally or personally. Kevles describes many of the obstacles that were overcome by the 40 women who have been in space as well as the excitement associated with space travel. With 40 stories to be told, however, none are presented in great detail. Nonetheless, Kevles provides a fresh look at the U.S. attempt to explore space while reflecting on injustice at home. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Oct.) Forecast: The moment for studying women in space seems to have arrived. This could be displayed together with two other terrific books, Martha Ackmann's The Mercury 13 and Stephanie Nolen's Promised the Moon. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Kevles (Yale Univ.) offers this well-written overview of the history of women in space. Although the former Soviet Union was the first nation to send a female into space (1963), since 1983, the US has had about 36 female astronauts. Kevles has gone to great length to interview many of these astronauts as well as several foreign ones. She expertly weaves their personal stories with the sociological and political context of their times and country. For instance, as the author recounts, Eileen Collins broke two important barriers to women: she was the first female pilot (1995) and the first commander (1999) of the Space Shuttle. Collins has even a more important role now: she will be commander of the first shuttle in the "return to flight" scheduled for the fall of 2004. The book also considers broader aspects of the current space program including the International Space Station and a future human mission to Mars. Now that women make up about 20 percent of the American astronaut corps, it is clear that they will play major roles in both of these efforts as well as other major space initiatives. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. General readers. J. Z. Kiss Miami University

Table of Contents

Prologuep. vii
1 Astronauts and Astronettesp. 1
2 Two Valentinasp. 19
3 Still Groundedp. 39
4 Explorers or Pioneersp. 55
5 Back in Star City ...p. 79
6 Two American Womenp. 93
7 From the Ashesp. 115
8 Not Quite a Hotelp. 135
9 Chatterbox in Orbitp. 153
10 Officers and Gentlewomenp. 171
11 At Home in Spacep. 191
Epiloguep. 219
Notesp. 225
Bibliographyp. 235
Acknowledgmentsp. 245
Time Linep. 249
Indexp. 265