22-25 July 2021 Jodrell Bank Observatory

Sue Nelson: First Woman on the Moon

Sue Nelson is a British journalist and broadcaster, presenter of the Space Boffins podcast and a former BBC science correspondent. As well as writing, she produces radio documentaries, short films and is an experienced TV and radio reporter/presenter. 

An avid space fan, Sue wrote to NASA as a teenager asking how to become an astronaut. She ended up reporting on space missions for the BBC instead. She has seen rocket launches from French Guiana (ESA) and Cape Canaveral (NASA), enjoyed the Aurora Borealis in Alaska and Iceland, and witnessed eclipses in Peru, the UK and, most recently, the United States.

Her awards include a 2017 New York International Radio Festivals International Radio Program award, a Knight Wallace Journalism Fellowship in space science, an Observer Travel Writer Award and an Association of British Science Writers Award. Her first book, How to Clone the Perfect Blonde, was long listed for the 2004 Science Book Prize.

She has known Mercury 13 member, Wally Funk, since 1997. Wally Funk’s Race for Space, Sue’s latest book, covers their trips between 2016-17 and is an enjoyable ride through a history of women in space with someone who, after passing astronaut tests in 1960, could have been the first woman in space or even on the Moon. Wally’s race into space is not over…

Talk: First Woman on the Moon

During the Apollo missions, ‘one small step for woman’ would have also made history. A few years earlier a group of female pilots in the United States had taken the same physical tests as the Mercury 7 astronauts – and thirteen of them passed and were ready to go into space. Two of them took every single test and phase available, in many cases surpassing the men. One of those women was Wally Funk. Today, aged 80, she is still trying to get into space. Sue Nelson discusses the all female ‘Mercury 13’, the sexism in their way (and others afterwards), women’s achievements in space and why Wally Funk, if history had been kinder, should have been the first woman on the Moon.

Days

Saturday 2019