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World NASA’s first female astronaut candidate, Jerrie Cobb, dies at 88

Jerrie Cobb, NASA's first female astronaut candidate, with a display of rockets at a national conference in 1961.

William P. Straeter/The Associated Press

NASA’s first female astronaut candidate, pilot Jerrie Cobb, has died.

Ms. Cobb died in Florida at the age of 88 last month. News of her death came Thursday from journalist Miles O’Brien, serving as a family spokesman.

In 1961, Ms. Cobb became the first woman to pass astronaut testing. Altogether, 13 women passed the arduous physical testing and became known as the Mercury 13. But NASA already had its Mercury 7 astronauts, all test pilots and men.

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None of the Mercury 13 ever reached space.

Ms. Cobb served for decades as a humanitarian aid pilot in the Amazon jungle, delivering food, medicine and other aid to Indigenous people there. She emerged in 1998 to make another pitch for space, as NASA prepared to launch John Glenn on shuttle Discovery at the age of 77. Cobb argued unsuccessfully that the research should include an older woman.

According to NASA, Ms. Cobb received numerous honours for her work, including the Amelia Earhart Medal, the Harmon Trophy, the Pioneer Woman Award and the Bishop Wright Air Industry Award.

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