In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or "human computers," to interpret the observations their male counterparts made via telescope each night. At the outset this group included the wives, sisters, and daughters of the resident astronomers, but soon the female corps included graduates of the new women's colleges -- Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the ladies turned from computation to studying the stars captured nightly on glass photographic plates. The "glass universe" of half a million plates that Harvard amassed over the ensuing decades -- through the generous support of Mrs. Anna Palmer Draper, the widow of a pioneer in stellar photography -- enabled the women to make extraordinary discoveries that attracted worldwide acclaim. They helped discern what stars were made of, divided the stars into meaningful categories for further research, and found a way to measure distances across space by starlight. Their ranks included Williamina Fleming, a Scottish woman originally hired as a maid who went on to identify ten novae and more than three hundred variable stars; Annie Jump Cannon, who designed a stellar classification system that was adopted by astronomers the world over and is still in use; and Dr. Cecilia Helena Payne, who in 1956 became the first ever woman professor of astronomy at Harvard -- and Harvard's first female department chair.
When the former Detroit Lions football career was cut short by an injury, Leland Marvin didn't waste time mourning his broken dream. Instead, he found a new one -- something completely out of this world. He joined NASA, braved an injury that nearly left him permanently deaf, and traveled to space on the shuttle Atlantis to help build the International Space Station. He also found time to write songs with will.i.am, work with Serena Williams, and appear in television shows like The Dog Whisperer, Top Chef, and Child Genius. Leland's story introduces readers to the creative and scientific challenges he had to deal with in space and will encourage the next generation of can-do scientists to dare to follow their dreams. Includes do-it-yourself experiments in the back of the book.
"The Space Age began just as the struggle for civil rights forced Americans to confront the long and bitter legacy of slavery, discrimination, and violence against African Americans. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson utilized the space program as an agent for social change, using federal equal employment opportunity laws to open workplaces at NASA and NASA contractors to African Americans while creating thousands of research and technology jobs in the Deep South to ameliorate poverty. We Could Not Fail tells the inspiring, largely unknown story of how shooting for the stars helped to overcome segregation on earth. Richard Paul and Steven Moss profile ten pioneer African American space workers whose stories illustrate the role NASA and the space program played in promoting civil rights. They recount how these technicians, mathematicians, engineers, and an astronaut candidate surmounted barriers to move, in some cases literally, from the cotton fields to the launching pad. The authors vividly describe what it was like to be the sole African American in a NASA work group and how these brave and determined men also helped to transform Southern society by integrating colleges, patenting new inventions, holding elective office, and reviving and governing defunct towns. Adding new names to the roster of civil rights heroes and a new chapter to the story of space exploration, We Could Not Fail demonstrates how African Americans broke the color barrier by competing successfully at the highest level of American intellectual and technological achievement."--Publisher information.
The successes of the space program--the first orbital flight, the first spacewalk, the first moon landing--and the stories of Apollo I, Apollo II, and Apollo 13, written by America's first man in space.