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Rep. Young Kim

Washington, DC – Today, Women in STEM Caucus Co-Chairs Young Kim (CA-40), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Debbie Lesko (AZ-08), and Haley Stevens (MI-11) introduced the Mercury 13 Congressional Gold Medal Act. This bipartisan bill honors the trailblazing women of the Mercury 13, who paved the way for women at NASA and female astronauts, with a Congressional Gold Medal to be displayed in the National Air and Space Museum.

The Mercury 13 was a group of 13 American women pilots who took part in the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATs) privately funded testing by Dr. William Lovelace at NASA. While they passed the first astronaut tests, they weren’t allowed to join NASA’s human spaceflight program because of their gender.

“The Mercury 13 were brave, talented women who rightfully earned their spots as the first female astronauts but were told they could not participate because of their gender. It’s past time we recognize their important role as trailblazers who paved the way for future generations of women in STEM,” said Rep. Young Kim. “As co-chair of the Women in STEM Caucus, I’m proud to help lead this effort to honor these women and show girls today that the sky isn’t even the limit to what they can accomplish. I’ll keep fighting to protect the American dream, expand opportunities for students, and ensure that future generations of Americans know they can do anything they put their minds to.”

“Ever since I was a kid, Sally Ride has been an idol of mine. But we know glass ceilings are often cracked before they are shattered,” said Rep. Houlahan. “Before Sally Ride became the first female astronaut, there were women before her to train and help prove that, yes, women were physically fit to go into space alongside their male counterparts. This bill recognizes those women, the Mercury 13, for their contributions to space exploration and the enduring human spirit to understand the universe. I’m enormously proud to lead this effort as the Women in STEM Caucus introduces its first bill.”

“The American Space Race during the 20th Century gave hope and deep feelings of patriotism and pride to numerous men, women, and children around the country,” said Rep. Lesko. “I’m grateful to join my colleagues in the Bipartisan Women in STEM Caucus to honor the legacy of the women of the Mercury 13 program, who served our nation’s space program with distinction. May their memory live on and inspire countless young women to reach their dreams.”

“The Mercury 13 Congressional Gold Medal Act recognizes the women who paved the way for other female astronauts to shatter the glass ceiling at NASA,” said Rep. Stevens. “Women have long been shut out of opportunities to make history. That is why it is so important to honor women who had doors slammed on them despite the overwhelming evidence proving those doors should have stayed open. The Mercury 13 Congressional Gold Medal Act is a tribute to this group of courageous women, and I am proud to join my Women in STEM Caucus Co-Chairs in introducing this legislation.”

The bipartisan legislation is also endorsed by several organizations including:

  • American Geophysical Union (AGU) 
  • Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) 
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) 
  • Brooke Owens Fellowship in partnership with Netflix’s ‘The Space Gal’ – Emily Calandrelli  
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) USA 

“We commend Representatives Houlahan, Kim, Stevens, and Lesko’s efforts to honor the groundbreaking efforts of the thirteen women who partook in the FLATS program with a Mercury 13 Congressional Gold Medal Act,” said Interim Executive Director and CEO of the American Geophysical Union, Janice R. Lachance. “At the core of AGU stands our commitment to building an inclusive scientific community, one which fosters innovation and growth while continuing to place emphasis on equitability. This bill will help to do just that by further inspiring future generations of girls and women in STEM.” 

“On behalf of our more than 320 member companies who have all benefitted from the contributions of women in STEM, the Aerospace Industries Association thanks Representative Houlahan for her leadership in honoring the trailblazing astronauts of the First Lady Astronaut Trainees program,” said Eric Fanning, President and CEO, AIA. “The Mercury 13 Congressional Gold Medal Act will ensure the momentous accomplishments of these women don’t go unacknowledged and inspire future generations to reach for the stars.” 

“The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is pleased to support the Mercury 13 Congressional Medal Act,” said Dan Dumbacher, Executive Director, AIAA. “On behalf of the 30,000 aerospace engineers and professionals we represent, AIAA celebrates the accomplishments of the Mercury 13 astronauts, a group of talented and trailblazing women who helped advance aerospace in unique ways during a crucial time in history. We are in awe of their determination and dedication to their training, which has helped create opportunities for more women to pursue careers in STEM disciplines. The Mercury 13 showed us how aerospace benefits from the contributions of everyone, as we continue to work today toward the aerospace community better reflecting the diversity of society overall. AIAA urges the House to pass this important act.” 

“The women test pilots who were part of the First Lady Astronaut Trainees Program were a vital part of NASA’s Mercury Project,” said Eduardo Palacio, 2023 President, IEEE-USA. “While NASA never chose these women for space travel, they paved the way for the generations of women to follow and engineers today still benefit from their work.” 

“I’m excited to support the recognition of the lives, legacies, and contributions of these pioneering women who paved the way for the next generation of girls and women to pursue their dreams in Aerospace,” said Emily Calandrelli, Team of the Brook Owens Fellowship and The Space Gal. 

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