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Apollo 11-Start: Meet the women behind NASA's historic mission to the moon



On Tuesday, three men in space suits embark on the greatest scientific adventure of all time. As the astronauts of Apollo 11 headed for the moon, NASA women broke new ground on Earth.

Poppy Northcutt, Joann Morgan and Margaret Hamilton were trailblazers, "hidden figures" who were vital to the US success of the Apollo 11 mission. Morgan said it was life changing.

"What it said to me and what meant so much to me is: Hey, I'm really part of this team right now," she said.

She was admitted to a job that was not used to women. [1

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Joann Morgan

CBS News


"My director said: & # 39; I want Joann on the console, she's my best communicator, she's the one," Morgan said.

She was the one who was listening for communication problems and the only woman in the shooting room firing the Saturn V rocket.

With the astronauts on their way to the moon to alert them to problems, Hamilton fell to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her team.

"You had to solve things that had never been solved before," Hamilton said.
Her group wrote the master software for the Lunar Module and had to plan for all eventualities.

  d2-nod-women-of-apollo-0715-frame-2076.jpg
Margaret Hamilton

Draper & wehackthemoon.com


"You had to say," Well, what if the astronaut enters that keystroke, what do we do to recover from it? "She said.

When the Eagle approached the lunar surface, something unexpected happened that could jeopardize the mission.

"My first thought was:" How can this happen now? "Personally, I remember that horror," said Hamilton.

There was no need to cancel, their software was fine.

"It was the first time a human was walking on the moon and the first time software ran on the moon," Hamilton said.

  lrg-dsc01291.jpg [19659005] Norah O & # 39; Donnell with Poppy Northcutt.

CBS News


But the most critical phase of the mission had yet to come. Northcutt, the only woman in mission control, calculated the maneuvers that would bring these astronauts home.

"It's very nerve-wracking, it does not matter how successful another phase was if you did not get it back safe and sound," said Northcutt. "It was also an opportunity to encourage other women to engage with science and technology and to understand that women can take on these responsibilities."

It's a role that she realized was important.

"I got letters from little girls and boys around the world who said," I did not know women could do that, "said Northcutt," so I was very aware of that. "


CBS News & # 39; one-hour special "Man on the Moon", hosted by O & # 39; Donnell, will air on Tuesday, July 16, from 10 pm ET / PT.

Preview: Man on the Moon – a CBS News Special

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