San Francisco County
Marion Dietrich was a pilot and one of the Mercury 13 who underwent the same NASA testing in the early 1960s as the Mercury 7 astronauts.
Born in San Francisco in 1926, Dietrich was the daughter of Richard Dietrich, who worked in the import business, and his wife, Marion. Dietrich began flying at an early age, getting a student pilot certificate at age 16. She and identical twin sister Janet were the only girls in an aviation class at Burlingame High School.
In 1947, Dietrich and sister Janet, entered the inaugural Chico-to-San Mateo Air Race and took first place, defeating experienced men. Dietrich graduated from the University of California, Berkley in 1949 with degrees in mathematics and psychology. After placing in other local races, the flying twins collected the second-place trophy in the 1951 All-Women's Transcontinental Air Race, known as the Powder Puff Derby. Dietrich worked for a time as a newspaper reporter for the Oakland Tribune, flying supersonic as a passenger in a fighter aircraft on a story assignment. She also became a commercial transport pilot, flying charter and ferry flights.
In 1960, Dietrich and her sister were among a select group of female aviators invited to the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque, where experts had screened potential NASA astronauts. The women underwent the same medical tests and examinations as Alan Shepard, John Glenn, and the other men who eventually traveled into space. The extensive exams included everything from swallowing 3 feet of rubber hose to drinking radioactive water. Though only 5 feet 3 inches tall and 100 pounds, Dietrich completed the regimen of tests, as did her sister and 11 other women.
While the women waited for the next phase of their program in July 1961, the testing was halted without warning or explanation. It would be two more decades before the United States launched its first woman into space, Sally Ride, an astrophysicist turned astronaut.
Dietrich died in 1974 from cancer.
Created by: PAPAWRAITH
Record added: Dec 14, 2011
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