Book Review: Fighting for Space: Two Pilots and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight

Grand Central Publishing

FIGHTING FOR SPACE: Two Pilots and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight (March 2021; Grand Central Publishing; ISBN: 978-1-5387-1605-2; $17.99; Paperback)

Spaceflight historian Amy Shira Teitel tells the riveting story of the female pilots who each dreamed of being the first American woman in space.

Los Angeles, CA, March 11, 2021 — Did you know that women make up half of the U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 28 percent make careers in science and engineering? Written as a dual biography, the book centers on female pilots Jackie Cochran and Jerrie Cobb who are vying to be the first female astronauts.

Set against mid-20th century America, the story reveals exciting historical turning points for anyone yearning to become an astronaut. Jackie is a world-class pilot with more propeller and jet flying records than any of her peers—male or female. She led the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots during World War II, was the first woman to break the sound barrier, ran her own luxury cosmetics company and was personal friends with multiple presidents. Jerrie is 25 years younger and a record-holding pilot in her own right, who was in the right place at the right time—taking the same medical tests as Mercury astronauts. The media fell in love with the idea of a female astronaut, though no such program existed.

In FIGHTING FOR SPACE, Amy shares the following:

  • How the exacting requirements of America’s first astronauts meant women stood no chance of flying in space.
  • The friendly rivalry between the two pilots.
  • How Jackie Cochran’s luxury cosmetics line, which competed with major brands like Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein, fit in with her success as a pilot.
  • The deep friendship between Jackie Cochran and famed pilot Amelia Earhart.
  • Jackie Cochran’s hidden backstory of hiding her birth name (Bessie Pittman) and her family and inventing a story of growing up an orphan.
  • In the paperback version, Amy reveals new facts about Jerrie Cobb’s adulterous romance with her boss, whose wife happened to be Jackie Cochran’s friend.

When the space age dawned in the late 1950s, Jackie Cochran held more propeller and jet flying records than any pilot of the twentieth century—man or woman. She had led the Women’s Auxiliary Service Pilots during the Second World War, was the first woman to break the sound barrier, ran her own luxury cosmetics company, and counted multiple presidents among her personal friends. She was more qualified than any woman in the world to make the leap from atmosphere to orbit. Yet it was Jerrie Cobb, twenty-five years Jackie’s junior and a record-holding pilot in her own right, who finagled her way into taking the same medical tests as the Mercury astronauts. The prospect of flying in space quickly became her obsession.

While the American and international media spun the shocking story of a “woman astronaut” program, Jackie and Jerrie struggled to gain control of the narrative, each hoping to turn the rumored program into their own ideal reality—an issue that ultimately went all the way to Congress.

This dual biography of audacious trailblazers Jackie Cochran and Jerrie Cobb presents these fascinating and fearless women in all their glory and grit, using their stories as guides through the shifting social, political, and technical landscape of the time.

About the author: Amy Shira Teitel is a spaceflight historian, public speaker, popular science writer, and the author of Fighting for Space:Two Females and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight. She is one of the few academically trained women in her field. Teitel, a 20-something space historian, YouTuber with over 360K subscribers, social media influencer, and TV host. One of the few in her field, she earned her bachelor’s degree with combined honors in history of science and technology studies before leaving academia for popular science writing. She has since written for more than two dozen websites including the BBC, ad Time Magazine online, earned a Group Achievement Award from NASA as part of the New Horizons Pluto team, and appears frequently as an expert interviewee in several TV shows and documentaries including The Apollo Chronicles and NASA’s Unexplained Files.  She also maintains her blog, Vintage Space, and its companion YouTube channel.


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