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tv   [untitled]    March 3, 2012 12:00pm-12:30pm EST

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continuity in american foreign policy, a lot of broad consensus. i think what you're seeing here is the kind of consensus that exists in the foreign policy community. probably there's a lot of overlap between the two parties. >> more with robert kagan on foreign policy and his latest, the world america made. sunday night 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. >> history book shelf features popular american history writers of the past decade and airs on american history tv every saturday at noon eastern. this week on history book shelf martha ackmann discusses her book "the mercury 13" women and the dream of spaceflight. the book is an bt of women pilots who attempted to become the first female astronauts in the 1960s. the women passed the same tests as the mercury 7 astronauts yet they were not selected for any missions. this program is 40 minutes.
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>> you're looking at the cover of the atlantic's special commemorative issue on the civil war. this issue contained 50 pieces of reporting essays poetry, fiction from the 345g sewn's archives, also contemporary works including an introduction by president obama. the magazine cover is the run up to the civil war, the war itself, and the after war period. as you can see some of the writer's features include some of the greats, mark twain, nathaniel hawthorne, ralph waldo emerson and others. joining us to talk about the issue is atlantic's editor james bennett and deputy editor. gentlemen, thank you for joining us. >> thanks for having us. >> the commemorative issue, less talk about "the atlantic." it has a great history that goes back to the civil war. how does abolition and abolitionist movement play into the founding of the magazine?
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>> we had a wonderful time putting this issue together partly because we love these pieces and partly because it gave us the opportunity to reconnect with the founding history of the magazine. atlantic published its first in november of 1857 in boston. the magazine was basically created by a group ofwriters who came together with two fundamental purposes. one was to capture what they saw as an emerging voice -- an emerging american voice in letters, one their own voice. the other was to abolish slavery. they were very committed abolitionist. this was a very radical idea still. they were interested in promoting the founding of a magazine what they called the american idea. they didn't exactly define what they meant but regarded slavery as antithetical to that idea and a terrible blot on the union.
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>> he mentions the articles originally were published anonymously. why was that? >> the tradition of the time. authorship was much less of an important thing than it is now. just to add to something that james said, the magazine was founded to sort of espouse the american idea, the time the country was young enough, 1857, less than 100 years old, always looking back over our shoulder at europe. what is the distinctive person voice. also we talk now about the partisanship of politics and stridencey of it. anything we post would have more credibility if it was as the founding document associated with the magazine put it of no party or clique. this was something we try to espouse and kind of embody today. the one exception, at least as far as the editor is concerned, all ideological persuasions and
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political perspectives exempt where concerns slavery. in fact, doing the research and compiling this collection of essays we discovered our first staff political writer actually quit because the founding editor -- anything he wrote the editor would insert passage arguing for the abolition of slavery. >> that's a good point to leave off and into the creation of this commemorative. james bennett refers in the opening comment as the magazine's sage and unofficial archivist. what was it like going to the archives to put this together. >> you just addressed a common misconception. the magazine sage is my sister, but i work closely with her. between the 2011 us, my sister and myself, we -- >> good evening and welcome to
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odyssey book shop. it's my pleasure tonight to be introducing to you martha ackmann. we are launching her extraordinary book "the mercury 13." martha ackmann is the associate professor of women's studies as well as a journalist whose articles have and in the "new york times," boston globe, "chicago tribune" and "los angeles times." in 1961 just as nasa launched its first man into space, 13 women underwent secret testing in hopes of becoming america's first female astronaut. they passed the same battery of tests at the legendary lovelace foundation as did the mercury 7 astronauts but they were summ y summarily dismissed.
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martha ackmann tells the story of these remarkable women, all cracker jack pilots and patriots, sometimes sacrificed jobs and marriages for a chance to participate in america's space race against the soviet union. martha ackmann spoke extensively with these women and interviewed chuck yeager, john glenn and others at the white house with firsthand knowledge of the program. a provocative tribute to those extraordinary women. the mercury 13 is an unforgotable story of resilience, inextinguishable hope. we're greatly indebted to martha ackmann for the hard work in telling this story and her compelling writing which makes this book a fascinating read. please join me in welcoming martha ackmann. [ applause ]
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>> thank you very much. it's a real privilege to share the story of these accomplished women's pilot but it's a greater tribute to do it at the book shop, the cultural heartbeat of our community. joan, thank you very much for inviting me. as i look around this room at so many friends and neighbors, many of whom have been with this story for a very long time since i began, i kind of look at these faces and say when it comes to "the mercury 13," that's the mercury 14 and 15. these people know the story as well as i do. i thank you very much for being here. as joan said, this is the story of 13 accomplished women pilots who were secretly tested for astronaut viability in 1960 and '61. they were the top of the heat
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among american women pilots. some were champions in air races. others set aviation world records for altitude and long distance flying. like most women who tried to get jobs as pilots in the 1960s, it was a very rough go. so many of these women while they were spending their weekends breaking world records, 9:00 to 5:00 monday through friday they worked as third grade teachers in akron, ohio or journalists in oakland. some who were lucky enough to earn their living as pilots had to patch together jobs. some found themselves getting planes off the runway as charter pilots and announcing to the passengers this is your captain speaking. when a female voice came on, some passengers were not so happy they were heading off to lift off with a female pilot. encountering extraordinary, extraordinary obstacles. what i thought i would do this
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evening is read from three sections in the book and then take some questions as well. the first section that i'd like to read is from the opening. and i chose it because it introduces the characters of the mercury 13 as well as some of the other central figures in the book. you'll hear about jerri, number one among this group, the best hope to be the first female astronaut in the world as well as two simply astonishing physicians. lovelace, the general from the air force designed the medical test for john glenn, alan shepherd, ran them through the test at the lovelace clinic in new mexico and helped select those men for america's first
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astronauts. so you'll be hearing about don and randy lovelace, jerri cob, as well as be introduced to james web, during that time was the head of nasa. this is a scene that sets up the mood of the country, space fever that was just engulfing the united states in the early. and a chicken and green peas luncheon in oklahoma city in 1961. against on a snowy january afternoon, a few days after john kennedy had been sworn in as president. jerrie cobb sajas web for a cha commerce leaders in the city honoring leaders in the aerospace community. one could not tell by looking at her quiet dem enear but cobb was sitting on secrets.
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moments after the first press conference introducing mercury 7 astronauts cobb became a test subject at the foundation. they had found their exceptional female pilot. when lovelays revealed the results in stockholm, reporters began calling cobb's parents in the middle of the night trying to track down the tas tern young woman the media instantly dubbed america's first astronaut. the past year had been a whirlwind for cobb. now she held another confidence. dr. lovelace tested 12 more pilots and she helped se them. the first candidate arrived in albuquerque at the lovelace foundation and more women would soon follow that spring and that summer. all women had been pledged to secrecy, but cobb knew their identities and she considered them exceptional pilots and
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ideal test subjects. there were identical twins from california, the youngster, 22-year-old mary wallace from taos, new mexico, air force reserve jean hickson, polite instructor from georgia, myrtle kansas city, sarah, executive pilot from houston, ria hurley, chicago, instructor from oklahoma, the sassy air race competitor from ds geraldine jerri sloan and u.s. senator's wife from michigan, janie hart. as cobb made idle conversation with james web at the luncheon's head table, she hoped he wouldn't ask her about the new mexico tests. the day before "the new york times" printed a brief article reporting 12 unnamed women were
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undergoing astronaut exams. cobb did not want to be asked about the women's identities or any other details that would wind up in another newspaper. but webb did not have as much time to talk with cobb as he expected. while luncheon dishes were cleared he received a phone call the dais, walked out ser to of the room andll.to what he heard surprised him. kennedy wanted him in washington immediately to discuss with vice president lyndon johnson the prospect of taking over leadership of nasa. while flattered, webb was cautious thinking a scientist would be better suited for the job. the white house persisted and webb finally agreed to fly out to washingtoat phone and returned to his seat next to jerrie cobb. staring at the desert plates in front of them, both webb and cobb tried not to dissolve their space secrets.
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james webb surprised himself by reversing his initial impulse about the job. i never said no to any president. within minutes they shuttled him to the press secretary. perhaps stunned by the speed of the decision webb greeted reporters as kennedy's nominee for nasa administrator. as soon as he was able to get to the phone, webb called his wife with the news. the radio was on, she told him, and she had just heard the announcement. 10 days as president behind him, kennedy delivered his state of the unio opportunity to separate himself from the previous administration, to take bold strides and plane new learned ik and a half was staggering, the president admitted. there was reasons for the conce
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the economy, defense and exploration of outerspace neede. while the united states was leaving the soviets ientific rer system, the russians were ahead in building powerful rockets capable of hoisting a man into orbit. to those who were listening rebout the space program did not arouse much enthusiasm. leading the world in scientific research was not half as thrilling as being poised to launch a man into orbit. it was a little like saying the united states was ahead in chalkboard equations while the soviets were practically counting down to blast off. remember the first astronaut to orbit the earth in 1961, followed several weeks later --
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but several weeks later -- by alan shepherd. didn't quite make the rco that kennedy had hoped. he detailed the experiments went through as well as beginning to assemble the rest of the women from the rest of the country and take those same exams. they were really quite invasive and extensive exams, some 75 in all. including, for several of the women, who then were able to go onto the next stage of them, a rather remarkable test involving sensory isolation. this is a section that talks about how cob as well as some women were tested to see what scientists thought was a great void of the case, silence, stillness, darkness of space. testing their
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adaptability. you'll be hearing about dr. jay shirley, a very distinguished doctor in oklahoma city who ran these tests and comparing them to what the men went through at wright patterson field. this is where their tests began to differ. up until this time they were exactly the same. but i think you'll see in this case that the women's tests stretched them a bit farther. the assistant described the tank room as a bomb shelter with thick insulated walls and a heavy door leading into the observers station. in the summer of the room was a large circular tank 10 feet in diameter and 8 1/2 feet deep. inside was slowly rippling water set at 95.3 degrees fahrenheit, a temperature precisely chosen
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so the subject was not able to distinguish between his or her own skin and the water itself. it was as if the body became one continuous medium. the buoyancy created by epsom salt created a great salt lake, a uniform tactile field that simulated weightlessness. the tank room insulated for sound so any noise was silenced. barking dogs, activity down the hall, pipes, even rumble of trucks outside the hospital was quelled. the room was so silent, the subject reported they could hear the sound of their own hearts beating and occasionally intestines. one said he could hear the erie slide of tendons being stretched. one physician reported the snapping sound of his own heart valves closing at the end of each rhythmic ea observed, is al
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noise machine. other precautions taken to prevent light, odor,, co, any sy in the tank. a failing of the right patterson isolation room according to shirley is never seation of free floating sensation. they could stand, even sit in a chair just as they did anywhere else on earth. in the early stages of the oklahoma city tank runs, the mask pulled down over entire head so they could float face down in the water. the mask allowed forever inhalation and expiration of air but also leaked. small pools of water would creep into a subject's ears and disrupt thr solitude. for cobb's run foam flotation pillows behind her head and hips which allowed her to drift heads up.
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foregoing the mask might well have added to peace of mind, a grotesque hood that resembled those worn by prisoners headed for execution. just befco her run in the tank, a reporter contacted dr. shirley and asked if he might try to provide the with a. the journalist record provided an unusually detailed report of the tank's affects on the mind of a healthy person, a striking contrast to what cobb would soon experience and what she would say or not say from the microphone hanging from a thin cord above the dark waters. after preliminary hearings about what to expect in the inner room, the 29-year-old reporter spent his first hour motionless and engaged in an audible monologue about work that needed to be completed on the job, his son's well-being and his wife's
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recent sleep walking episode. he then turned his thoughts to an unexpected letter from a gir. criticisms concerning younger generation of journalists and childhood memories. by the second hour he spoke of the need to move, exercise and expressed surprise he did not want a cigarette. he told of his stark loneliness, except for, in his words, my very real companions, my thoughts and also expressed emp sam, the nasa monkey, who recently had been launched into space and endured what the reporter considered to be a similar situation. he passed the time by whistling and dropped off into a brief nap in which he remembered the image of a sawdust cream cone. by the third hour, he thought he had dogs barking and a crackling sound. he launched into a baudy rendition of a barroom song. for a moment he was in an ecstatic move and quickly plunged to sadness crying how many people really think about
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what it's alleoplever, ever thik just once about love. as quickly as the grief had overtaken him, laughing returned. he told a joke, joe, what do you do when your engine quits at 200 feet? he convulsed with laughter at the reply. you land the son of a bitch. you, voice, keep quiet up there. quiet. he sighed deeply, felt profoundly board and turned to thoughts of the space monkey turning with irritation, i just might as well be sam for all i can be or do or think or hear or smell or taste. for 10 minutes he convinced his time in the tank was unprofitable because it revealed no information and he felt fine. he questioned again whether he heard sounds. then suddenly got out of the tank. during his four and a half hours spent floating in isolation, his longest period of silence was less than six minutes long.
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in a post-run interview, he and calm, even happy, but confessed, i honestly believe if you put a person in there, just kept him, fed him by vein, he would just flat-out die. jerrie cobb's round in the tank shattered every previous record. several hundred subjects had already participated in the experiment and six hours in the water was thought to be the absolute limit of tolerance. cobb remained in sensory r run finally terminated by shirley's assistant. dr. shirley was astonished by cobb's ability to withstand solitude. equally extraordinary was the taped transcript of what cobb said in the tank. the reporters monologue went on. cobb's comments during a period of more than twice as long filled only two sheets of paper. in his conclusion of his report to dr. shirley stated
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that he believed jerrie cobb possessed extraordinary, if not unique qualities for service as an astronaut. cobb's friend rep coffey who interviewed shirley for an article on her run in the tank, the psychologist offered the most revealing analysis shedding professional medical jargon, shirley went right to the point. jerrie cobb is
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>> when they were able to get an oklahoma for the navy nasa stepped in and said, no, we don't want the women to go further. at that point the women said no way. we're going to protest this. begin to lobby congress, jerrie cobb being the primary advocate for all women with janie hart, who i mentioned in the first passage was the wife of senator phil hart of michigan. this passage has to do with the payoff for some of their lobbyi lobbying. hart's lobbying worked. within days of the request, the vice president agreed. wired jerrie cobb asking her to leave for washington. she was an important ally to
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win. not only had johnson guided legislation, he was head and jos council. more important, vice es greater benefits to the country than scientific research alone. like kennedy he was keenlyacefl nad. withenn's orbit that he ha to the island to peal back to c canaveral. johnson wanted to be recognized publicly as the administration's link to space. when glenn and the family made the triumphant ride to the capital, johnson was squeezed into the front side of the astronaut's open convertible. people lining the streets on that rainy day in washington focused as much on the vice president as they did on glenn. lyndon johnson's massive build and large gestures all but
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overwhelmed the car. he looked like a big excited blood hound, all ears and gaping mouth and insistent head. before the meeting with jerrie cobb and janie hart, scanned background materials secretary liz carpenter prepared. she urged the vice president to give the women some encouragement and drafted a letter to james webb for johnson's sit. the letter while not a ringing endorsement of women astronauts asked if any women met guidelines or if women had been disqualified simile because they were women. i'm sure you agree sex should not be a reason to disqualify for space, carpenter drafted in johnson's letter. inde, the issue of women in space was getting press. the morning of cobb and hart's meeting with lyndon johnson, congressman heckler of west virginia called for women astronauts posting in the
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congressional letter a copy of the recent speech before the women's space sim bossium. he prefaced as a member of the house committee on science. i believe we should give serious consideration to women among our future astronauts. columnists across the country were also weighing in. a science writer for the dallas herald offered a not too subtle condemnation of the idea. let them vote. let them wear pants. let sot pool. but please, mr. vice president, don't let them go into space. the column present add mock conversation of women astronauts at the controls of an orbiting space capsule, dialogue filled with stereotypes about women's lack of technical knowledge, fascination with interior decorating and absent mindedness. this thingabob off the gizmo. it was a drawing of geranium 7,
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tieback curtains, winding garden of flowers, a caricature of lbj looked on in horror at the frilly capsule. the vice president agreed to meet with the women at 11:00 a.m. in his office across from the chambers. a master of political real estate, johnson maintained his senate leadership office after he assumed the journalists around capitol hill referred to the elaborate chambers of office p38 as the taj mahal. it was an impressive room with large crystal chandelier and ornate frescoes on the ceiling. as she began, cobb focused immediately on the scientific benefits that could be gained by sending a woman into space. een making ed johnson with the for nearly two years. women weighed less, ate less, consumed less oxygen than men, therefore women would need less booster power than to propel them into space. recent st

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