'Get Used to it' — The Women Who Broke Through Apollo's Glass Ceiling

Space.com | 1/6/1994 | Chelsea Gohd
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WASHINGTON — Last Thursday (Sept. 12), three women who were critical to the success of the Apollo program spoke at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum here about their experiences as scientists and engineers at NASA.

At the museum's 2019 John H. Glenn Lecture in Space History, moderator, museum director and former NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan spoke with Poppy Northcutt, an engineer and "computer" who worked as the first-ever woman in an operational support role in mission control during Apollo 8, JoAnn Hardin Morgan, an aerospace engineer who was the only woman working in the firing room for Apollo 11, and Carolyn Leach Huntoon, who directed and conducted medical research at NASA and was the first American woman to serve as director of NASA's Johnson Space Center.

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The three panelists were additionally joined by a surprise last minute guest in the audience — Marion Lee Johnson, a Black History Month honoree, legendary "hidden figure" and engineer who calculated trajectories for the Saturn V rocket and was integral to the success of the Apollo program.

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JoAnn Morgan in the firing room during NASA's launch of the Apollo 11 moon mission.

The panel, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of NASA's Apollo lunar missions, began with a video showing the museum's "Go for the Moon" event, which recreated the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

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"I knew at the time of Apollo 11 I was working on something incredibly important," Morgan, who additionally became the first woman to serve as a senior executive at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, said at the panel. To a diverse crowd containing a number of hopeful, inspired young women, Morgan spoke about how she was a math whiz in school and became more interested in space with the discovery of the Van Allen Belts.

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