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Author Topic:   Gene Nora Jessen, Mercury 13 (1937-2024)
Robert Pearlman

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posted 05-29-2024 05:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Aviator Gene Nora Jessen, who in 1961 became a member of the so-called "Mercury 13" by passing the same spaceflight medical tests as NASA's original astronauts, died on May 21, 2024. She was 87.

With Jessen's death, Wally Funk is last surviving member of the Mercury 13.

Aviation was Gene Nora's passion and calling. She was introduced to Civil Air Patrol in high school, and learned to fly at OU [Oklahoma University] where she added ratings and her certificated flight instructor license. As a member of the Air Knockers Flying Club, she earned multiple National Intercollegiate Flying Association awards. While instructing at Oklahoma State University in 1961, Gene Nora learned Dr. William Randolph Lovelace was looking for women pilots to undertake the same astronaut tests as the Mercury Seven. She was accepted into the short-lived program at his private New Mexico clinic, and passed the tests.

After the termination of the test program, Gene Nora's resume crossed the right desk at Beech Aircraft Corporation in Wichita, Kansas just as the company was developing its newest airplane. She flew one of three Musketeers on a 1962 promotional tour to Beech dealers in 48 states, and later chronicled the trip in one of her books, The Fabulous Flight of the Three Musketeers. Illustrated by Beech's photos, she recalls emerging from her plane to make sales calls in her dress and stilettos, and with every hair in place. This should surprise no one; even with her dry humor and rapier wit, Gene Nora remained a lady at all times. Her plane, N2303Z, has been restored to its original red livery and is part of the flying collection at the Beechcraft Heritage Museum in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Gene Nora was devoted to The Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots founded by Amelia Earhart and 98 others in 1929. Gene Nora served as International President from 1986 to 1988, and presided over the charter of a chapter in the Kingdom of Jordan. She sat on the Federal Aviation Administration's Women's Advisory Committee, and the Boise Airport Commission. She received many honors over the years including a place in the Idaho Aviation Hall of Fame, an honorary doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the Pathfinder Award from the Seattle Museum of Flight, and the Distinguished Citizen award from the Idaho Statesman. She was proud to have been Eileen Collins's guest at the launch of STS-63 in 1995 when Eileen became the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle.

David Carey

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posted 05-29-2024 07:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David Carey   Click Here to Email David Carey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


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Kevin T. Randall

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posted 05-30-2024 08:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceCadet1983   Click Here to Email SpaceCadet1983     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


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posted 06-01-2024 07:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MSS     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
RIP Gene Nora Stumbough.


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