Rocket Launching Ladies
It took far too much time, but at least now the immense contribution made by remarkable female mathematicians to the NASA Apollo missions is very well known. What is less well known, however, is that it was a woman who first came up with the idea of faking moon landings, and was the de facto mission controller that oversaw a success so great that many people still believe it was genuine, even today.
By the late 50s it was obvious to all that the Soviet Union was way ahead in the so-called ‘Space Race’, and Kennedy’s special advisor Marge Winkledoon felt this was a weakness he could utilise to win election, and having done so she further felt it essential to deliver on it. It was she who wrote the iconic ‘We choose to go to the Moon’ speech (JFK himself adding the Rice/Texas football gag), and when it became increasingly obvious that the States had no hope of achieving this goal, she was tasked with heading up an ultra-secret committee to explore solutions.
The USA had nether the technology nor the know-how to take a human to the Moon (and back) before the end of that decade; it simply did not exist. Even the Soviets could not have done so. One day, date unknown, Winkledoon delivered her fresh approach to a stunned committee. It was going to be very tough, it was going to need as few people in the know as possible (even most individuals on the project did not know the reality), but she was convinced she could pull it off. And boy, did she!
Those people present, had they been able to see into the future half a century later, would never have believed her gamble could have paid off. They thought she was nuts when she uttered the immortal line that started the drive to the sham Apollo 11 mission. To a deadly silent room, deep under the New Mexican desert, she calmly stated her case.
“We’ll fake it.”
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