Astonishing film of trailblazer female astronaut released
By Cristina Olaru
An extremely successful premiere of the documentary film She Should Have Gone to the Moon took place last night(THURS Nov 15) at Phoenix Cinema in Leicester.
The director of the film, Ulrike Kubatta, opened the evening by saying thank you to those who supported her project, in particular ‘a very special thanks to the inspiring female colleagues’ from DMU.
She also introduced her special guests, Dr Suzanne Imber, a Planetary Scientist at Leicester University and winner of the 2017 BBC2 television series Astronauts: Do You Have What it Takes’ Sarah Russell, the Deputy City Mayor of Leicester, and Heather Savigny, Professor of Gender, Media and Politics at DMU.
The documentary tells the story of US pilot Jerri Truhill who was trained in 1961 to become one of the first female astronauts as part of NASA’s top secret Mercury 13 programme.
Professor Savigny said: “Why don’t we know who Jerri Truhill is and what she achieved?
“On one level this documentary and this evening is the celebration of an incredible story about a woman who wanted to go into space, but the film also raises fundamental questions about how we value women and their stories, their experience and contribution to society.”
The film opened with a four-year-old girl who had one dream, to fly. And she did, Jerri flew ‘higher and faster than anybody before her’, despite the male prejudices of 1960s US society.
Even her father said she had to be a lady, playing the piano, keeping the house nicely, marrying well and entertaining.
But Jerri laughs in her interview with Ulrike and says: “And that just was not what I had in mind at all. You see, I was smart. I did what was expected of me first.
“I got married, I went back to college and got my degree, I had two children and then I started flying. I was free to do what I wanted to do.”
Dr Imber gave a presentation after the screening about herself and the challenges she had to pass in the TV show ‘Astronauts: Do you have what it takes?’ to demonstrate her skills as an astronaut.
She also mentioned she does research mainly on the sun and its impact on planets, particularly on Earth and Mercury.
The scientist gladly announced the mission ‘BepiColombo’, launched from French Guiana on 20th of October this year, is going to the planet Mercury and is expected to arrive on December 2025.
The Planetary Scientist was asked if the history of women in space had changed since 1961 and she said: “Totally, with the exception of the fact that if you want to be a scientist and then go to be an astronaut, then there is already a gender discrimination against you, like there are not many women scientists, but a part of that, I think things changed massively.”
In the panel session, cllr Russell said: “There are many ways and situations that have been designed originally to work correctly for men that we never think to challenge.
“We never think to say actually if we go back to the beginning and do this differently, would we create the way that it functions in a way that better suited the woman?”
Asked why she had chosen the story of Jerri Truhill for her film, Miss Kubatta said: “Because she seemed the most outspoken woman from the 13th and I know there have been films about Mercury 13 and more recent documentaries about the training but I wanted to make a much more personal film because Jerri sort of became my heroine and she still is.
“I wanted to tell a one woman story and how she fought from the beginning. Also because she was a very unconventional trailblazer girl and woman and that was important to me.”