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The first woman in take-off control helps bring a man to the moon



But a woman stood out – the 28-year-old JoAnn Morgan.

Morgan, who served as instrument controller for the mission, was the only woman to enter the shooting room where NASA personnel were detained during the Apollo 11 mission. Historic Launch on July 16, 1969.

Morgan had to be in the room to notify the test team if something went wrong. However, she had to obtain a special permit to be there.

"My Information Systems Director called me and said," You're our best communicator, we'll have you on the console, "she said. "But later I found out he had to convince center director Dr. Kurt Debus that it would be alright."

Unseen footage from Morgan is featured in CNN Films documentary "Apollo 1
1". She inspired a generation of women – but her way was not always easy.

No Women's Toilets

As the first engineer in Cape Canaveral, Morgan remembered "being immersed in the world of a man" All around me were men.

This fact became apparent at certain times.

"Many of the buildings I worked in did not have any ladies' room," she said.

Just like the women in the movie "Hidden Figures." Morgan had to go to another building or use the men's room.

"Sometimes the guard was just great during the tests, so he came over and said," You need a little break? I will monitor the men's room. "Morgan said the boys tried not to notice." If I had to leave, I would have to go! "She said with a laugh.

Obscene phone calls and" fooling around "

Being the only woman also meant engaging with sexism and romping from time to time. "When I first started in Blockhouse 34, the test leader came and literally hit me on the back. He said, "We have no women here." And I thought, "Oh, oh." So I called my director … and there were calls, "she said." That same day, the big man responsible for the Apollo program at the Kennedy Space Center came down … and said: & # 39; JoAnn, you are welcome to work here. Do not worry what anyone says. "

When Morgan first worked in the firebox, she also got some obscene calls.

"Once, when one of them came through, I slammed the phone. And one of the broadcasters from the station came up and said: "Is something wrong? Is something wrong? & # 39; And I said, "Yes." He said, "The expression on your face. Was there a death in the family?" I said: "No, an obscene call." "

" But I never let myself be felt as an object. I would not be an object. I just had too much fearlessness to allow the deterrent. "

Roy Tharpe sat next to Morgan in the shooting room as the top test support controller for Apollo 11.

" You could never draw anything from her because she would take you and cut her to pieces. "Tharpe recalled. "She was extremely competent."

As a child, she preferred chemistry sets to dolls.

As a child, Morgan was a precocious child of World War II. She skipped the first grade and read all the books in her primary school library. Her favorite gift from her dad was a chemistry set.

"I blew up the terrace and cracked the concrete, but he made no fuss. He just said, "How did you do that?", She reminded herself.

"She was very, very smart," said her younger sister Jean Helms. "She had everything – the beauty and the brain."

At the age of 17, Morgan was selected to work as an intern at the US Army Ballistic Missile Agency.

"The great thing was that the ad showed" student. "Because if it was" boys, "I would not have applied," she recalled.

She had Moxie

At Cape Canaveral, she asserted herself with the boys, Morgan's colleague Roy Tharpe, although there were some who did not want them there.

"There were some men and we would advise our boys," Tharpe said. "But there was no doubt she had what it takes to be the only woman in the shooting room for Apollo 11."

Morgan's career began after Apollo 11. From 1958 to 2003, she continued to break barriers and became the first female leader at the Kennedy Space Center.

"When you looked at JoAnn and how she understood the policy and the way she worked things, she had size, "said Tharpe.

Suzy Cunningham, who works as a strategy and integration manager for NASA, previously worked for Morgan.

"She was a master for me, JoAnn is a giant glass ceiling crusher for all women at the Kennedy Space Center." She said. "It's a great inspiration for all of us to say you can do that."

"I am very proud that we are not too pale, too masculine, too stale," said Tharpe. "Because JoAnn brought in young ladies who were very smart and asserted, I know that she can look in the mirror and smile and say, 'Yes, I did.'

Well, Morgan enjoys retirement and splitting her time between Florida and Montana.

But that was not always her plan. There was a time when she wanted to spend her golden years on Mars.

"I thought you should have a geriatric program, if it had happened 15 years ago, I would have been a volunteer."

When she sees the moon shine over the lake behind her house in Montana, it's hard not to smile when she thinks of everything, she's done.

"I have to help 12 people walk on this moon and I love to tell everyone about it."


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