A photo of Martha Graham dancing
About the image

Yousuf Karsh, Martha Graham, 1948 © Yousuf Karsh, Gift of Estrellita Karsh in memory of Yousuf Karsh. National Portrait Gallery

Women’s Air Races, Aviation Business, and Astronaut Tests: Gene Nora Jessen’s Pathbreaking Career

When taking astronaut fitness tests is a just footnote in your long list of accomplishments, you know you’ve had an amazing career. Gene Nora Jessen is a successful pilot, flight instructor, business owner, and published author who also participated in a private research program evaluating women’s potential as possible space travelers. At the Lovelace Medical Center in 1960, she was one of an elite group of women pilots who took the physical testing regimen used for NASA’s Mercury astronauts. After the program was cancelled, House subcommittee hearings in summer 1961 made the question of women’s potential for spaceflight national news.  As a past International President of The Ninety-Nines and the author of four published books, Jessen is not only an accomplished pilot herself but also an expert on the history of women in aviation. Come hear the tales of her many flying adventures, including air racing and flying cross country in formation to promote a new aircraft.

To request an ASL interpreter, please email NASMPublicLectures@si.edu. We recommend that you submit your request for this event by May 14, 2019.*


Lectures & Discussions, Webcasts & Online


Air and Space Museum


Air and Space Museum

Event Location

Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater


Free, tickets required