Nathalia Holt is a science writer and author of NY Times bestseller "Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us from Missiles to the Moon to Mars" (Little, Brown and Co., 2016) and "Cured: The People who Defeated HIV" (Plume 2015). Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Popular Science, and Time. Holt contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
The black-and-white image is surprisingly crisp despite its advanced age. When I first saw the photograph, taken in 1955, two things struck me: The sheer number of women, intent on their work, and then, puzzlingly, the abbreviated caption. Although 14 women are depicted in the photograph, the archives at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, could identify only three of its former employees and had no contact information for them. As the women in the photograph gripped their pencils, their images remained frozen in time, their names and stories seemingly lost to history. Sadly, our pioneering scientists are frequently forgotten, and it is the contributions of women that are most often overlooked. ['Rise of the Rocket Girls' (US 2016): Book Excerpt']
I started making phone calls to track down the early women pioneers of NASA and soon found myself swamped in a sea of Barbaras, Helens and Virginias. I contacted 43 Barbara Paulsons in five states before I found the right one, in Iowa. Our first phone call, however, took my breath away.
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