NORMAN — For many, reaching for the stars is simply metaphorical. For Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb it was a realistic goal. Until, that is, it was all ripped away from her.
Showcasing Laurel Ollstein’s original script “They Promised Her the Moon,” University of Oklahoma Drama will narate Cobb’s unknown story in an upcoming world premiere.
Cobb’s life as an Oklahoma pilot serves as the framework for Ollstein’s tale chronicling the 1959-1962 failed attempts to earn women spots in NASA’s astronaut training program.
“I read a magazine article a few years back about NASA halting the Women in Space Program. It is unbelievable to me that no one really knows this story — even feminists and scientists don’t know this story,” she said. “I began to write a short story from this article because I wondered what would a person do if they worked for something so hard and had just got to the point of succeeding and the program was canceled. What would you do?”
Ollstein continued that she “googled ‘first female astronaut’ and what popped up was a page on Jerrie. I just continued my research and slowly unpacked, unpacked and unpacked the larger story. It is an unbelievable story that no one really knows.”
Cobb was born in Norman to OU alumni Harvey and Helena (Stone) Cobb in 1931 and grew up in Oklahoma City. Following in her father’s footsteps, she took her first flight at age 12 and began soloing on her 16th birthday. Cobb earned her commercial license on her 18th birthday and was hired by Jack Ford to ferry planes to South America, Asia and Europe. She set the world speed record in 1959 and was named Aviation’s “Women of the Year”.
Sponsored by the Lovelace Foundation for Medication Education and Research, Dr. William Randolph Lovelace II and Brig. General Donald Flickinger recruited Cobb to participate in the privately funded Women in Space Program study.