The Space Race: Who was forgotten in the story?

As the book and movie Hidden Figures showed us, media coverage of the Space Race left out many important people. While space museums have added more exhibits featuring women, including women of color, most of these women were given little attention in their historical moment compared to the (white, male) astronauts and others who contributed to the first rocket launches. Check out this article.

For this activity, research one of the following great NASA women. What was her story? How did she come to work for NASA? What was her contribution to space exploration? Did media of the past (newspapers and television) tell her story in her moment? If so, how was she portrayed? If not, why do you think she was left out? Has her story been told since?

  • Dr. Thora Halstead
  • Dorothy Vaughan
  • Katherine Johnson
  • Dr. Christine Darden
  • Eleanor Francis Helin
  • Dr. Sally Ride
  • Dr. Shannon W. Lucid
  • Dr. Rhea Seddon
  • Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan
  • Dr. Judy Resnik
  • Dr. Anna L. Fisher 
  • Nancy Grace Roman
  • Margaret Hamilton
  • Mae Jemison

Now think about Hidden Figures and other ways that some of these stories have been captured and preserved in collective memory. For example, this LEGO set:

Stock photo

What is one shortcoming of this LEGO set? What else needs to be done to highlight these contributions? Why is it important to remember important female NASA pioneers and people of color who have been left out in the mainstream historical narratives?

For further reading, check out these books:

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