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Women secretly trained as U.S. astronauts in 1960s

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New book chronicles 13 women pilots who secretly underwent the same tests as Mercury male astronauts in the early 1960's, scoring incredibly well, in an era when women could not be astronauts. (June 21)
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- More than a generation before Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman in space, some experienced female pilots dubbed the Mercury 13 almost beat her to the milestone.

Trained in secret in a laboratory run by a NASA medical officer, the group's remarkable experiences are chronicled in a new book by Martha Ackmann, "Mercury 13: The Untold Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Spaceflight."

In 1961, the same year the first U.S. man achieved spaceflight, the women underwent the same series of tests as the Mercury 7 astronauts, according to Ackmann.

But the Mercury 13 program did not win enough political support to continue to completion, she said, and the Soviet Union sent the first woman into space in 1963.

Ackmann, an author, journalist and Mount Holyoke College professor, recently spoke with CNN during the same week as the anniversary of Ride's historic flight on June 18, 1983.

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