The iconic line has become so familiar that it might be hard to imagine it any other way: as the first man on the moon put it, his achievement was “one small step for man.”
But what if the first human being on the lunar surface had been a woman? That’s a central question asked by the Netflix documentary Mercury 13, directed by David Sington and Heather Walsh.
The “13” in question were a group of experienced female pilots — Jerrie Cobb, Janey Hart, Jan Dietrich, Marion Dietrich, Rhea Hurrle, Irene Leverton, Bernice Steadman, Jean Hixson, Gene Nora Stumbough, Jerri Sloan, Myrtle Cagle, Sarah Lee Gorelick and Mary Wallace Funk — who in the early 1960s were invited by Dr. Randolph Lovelace, who had also been involved in testing male pilots for the same reason, to take the tests he had given to the Project Mercury astronauts. Cobb was the first woman to undergo the testing, and after she passed the test the other women were invited to participate.