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  Space Cover 259: The Mercury 13!

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 259: The Mercury 13!
stevedd841
Member

Posts: 195
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 03-30-2014 07:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cover of the Week, Week 259 (March 30, 2014)

The Project Mercury cover pictured is signed by test pilot, flight instructor, and airplane captain, Wally Funk, signed as "Wally." Wally Funk, a member of the Mercury 13, was a participant in the Lovelace Clinic tests in 1960 to determine if women could qualify as astronauts if subjected to the same battery of demanding tests as male astronaut candidates in the U.S. space program. Surprisingly, the women did as well or better than the men!

Space Cover #259: The Mercury 13!

Among the unsung heroes of Project Mercury was a small group of 13 women who shared a dream of becoming America's first women astronauts. Loosely organized and going through demanding tests to become astronauts in the U.S. space program, they became known as the Mercury 13.

Working with the U. S. Air Force, Dr. William R. Lovelace of the Lovelace Clinic, Albuquerque, New Mexico, designed tests for physical qualification of NASA's male astronauts for Project Mercury to place an astronaut in space.

But first, a little background information is necessary. Relatively unknown to the general public, Dr. Lovelace also embarked on another detailed project to test women to see how well they would perform on the same battery of tests as male Project Mercury astronaut candidates. Women throughout the country responded after hearing about the Lovelace tests through newspaper articles and other aviators. Most of the candidates were already accomplished pilots and were recruited through "the Ninety-Nines," a women pilots' organization.

In 1960, Dr. Lovelace invited accomplished pilot Jerrie Cobb and other selected women to undergo the same stressful and rigorous physical tests he had developed for the male astronaut group. To his surprise, the women did as well or better during the tests than the men did! And, Jerrie Cobb became the first woman to pass all three phases of Lovelace's Woman in Space Program tests.

Mercury 13 participant Jerrie Cobb is shown in the Gimbal Rig in the Altitude Wind Tunnel, April 1960, during her astronaut testing at the MASTIF, the Multiple Axis Space Test Inertia Facility. Jerrie Cobb completes testing with flying colors as a member of the Mercury 13, photo credit NASA.

The NASA website for the Mercury 13 describes the rigorous training the women candidates were subjected to. This site notes, "Since doctors didn't know what stresses astronauts would experience in space, tests ranged from the typical X-ray and general body physicals to the atypical, in which the women had to swallow a rubber tube so their stomach acids could be tested. Doctors tested the reflexes in the ulnar nerve of the women's forearms using electric shock. To induce vertigo, ice water was shot into their ears, freezing the inner ear so doctors could time how quickly they recovered. The women were pushed to exhaustion using specially weighted stationary bicycles to test their respiration. They subjected themselves to many more invasive and uncomfortable tests to gain the opportunity to be part of America's space team."

The 13 women who qualified from the Lovelace Clinic tests were: Jerrie Cobb, Wally Funk, Irene Leverton, Myrtle "K" Cagle, Janey Hart, Gene Nora Stumbough (Jessen), Jerri Sloan (Truhill), Rhea Hurrle (Woltman), Sarah Gorelick (Ratley), Bernice "B" Trimble Steadman, Jan Dietrich, Marion Dietrich and Jean Hixson. NASA management does not allow the group to continue, even after completion and qualification of Lovelace's battery of tests, but these highly qualified women smooth the way for other women to finally enter and excel in America's space program.

A member of the Mercury 13 and also a qualified pilot, Jerri Sloan (Truhill) is shown during a break in the test period at the Lovelace Clinic, Albuquerque, New Mexico, photo credit NASA.

As our country celebrates the contributions of women during National Women's History Month, this month, we affirm NASA's praise and gratitude for the remarkable and inspirational women of the Mercury 13. NASA spokeswoman Elaine Marconi at Kennedy Space Center makes this additional comment, "The personal sacrifices and dedication of the Mercury 13 continue to inspire women to reach for the stars, the Moon, Mars, and beyond." And, it inspires the men, too!

Steve Durst SU 4379

stevedd841
Member

Posts: 195
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 04-01-2014 04:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Lovelace cover June 2, 1961, addressed to space collector Barbara Baker.

A few discerning collectors tried to get covers and autographs from the Mercury 13 women who were undergoing astronaut testing at the Lovelace Clinic. One such astute collector was Barbara Baker. This is the business cover she received from Dr. William R. Lovelace, II, Director of the clinic with a response back to her saying the testing at the clinic had been completed. Covers mailed to the clinic to be signed by the women going through the astronaut tests were returned to Barbara unsigned.

Scan of letter from Dr. William R. Lovelace, II, to Barbara Baker noting that tests (for women) have been completed and these women will not be returning to the Foundation for any further testing at present.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 29308
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-01-2014 05:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by stevedd841:
Lovelace cover June 2, 1961, addressed to space collector Barbara Baker.
Would that really be considered a cover? What separates a typical piece of stamped mail from a cover (if anything)? I know it is not the size of the envelope, but I look at the given example and I don't think "cover."

stevedd841
Member

Posts: 195
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 04-01-2014 05:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert, thanks for your comment. I have to admit, I stopped to really think about your question and agree, the envelope does not have a stamp. It does, however, have postage paid by postage meter.

Here is the text book definition from that great American repository of all great things under the Sun, Wikipedia's definition:

The term originates from the practice of covering a letter by folding a separate sheet about it to physically protect it and prevent infringement of confidentiality.

In the first half of the 19th century it became the fashion to cut the cover into a diamond or lozenge shape. This was the precursor of the version of the envelope known today. Its convenience and popularity led to the lozenge design being adopted for the special pre-paid postage envelopes and covers issued in 1840 after postal reforms were introduced by Rowland Hill and others.

Robert, great question, and yes, I think it's still a cover as it went through the mail. Am open to further discussion on this, though, if other space cover collectors and folks who just want to weigh in, weigh in.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 29308
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-01-2014 05:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interesting, Steve. I don't mean to divert this topic further from the "Mercury 13," but I am still left wondering then if all the envelopes we receive on a daily basis through the mail are "covers."

The letter to Baker notes that they are returning her "covers" to her, but is the example pictured one of the referenced covers or the envelope in which the letter came?

Ken Havekotte
Member

Posts: 1967
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 04-01-2014 07:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Generally speaking, to the best of my philatelic knowledge, a "cover" pertains to the outside of a mailing envelope or package.

It can have an address with any kind of postage stamps affixed. But it does not pertain to the inside contents, only the "outside" containers or holders, or better known as "covers" by philatelists.

All times are CT (US)

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