America's first woman astronaut candidate dead at 88

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America's first female astronaut candidate who pushed for women has never died, he said.

Pilot Jerrie Cobb died in Florida on March 18 following a brief illness. She was 88.

Thursday of journalist Miles O'Brien, serving as a family spokesman.

In 1961, Cobb became the first woman to pass the grueling 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 jet test pilots and all military men.

"I would give my life to fly in space, I really would. It's hard for me to talk about it, but I would. I would then, and I will now. "

None of the Mercury 13 ever reached space, despite Cobb's testimony in 1962 before a Congressional panel.

"We seek, only, a place in our nation's future without discrimination," she told a special House subcommittee on the selection of astronauts.

The Mercury 13's story is told in a recent Netflix documentary and a play based on Cobb's life, "They Promised Her the Moon," is currently running in San Diego.

This photo was taken by NASA's Jerry Cobb in the 1960's The Multi-Axis Space Inertia Facility (MASTIF) at the Lewis Research Center in Ohio. (NASA via AP)

This photo was taken by NASA's Jerry Cobb in the 1960's The Multi-Axis Space Inertia Facility (MASTIF) at the Lewis Research Center in Ohio. (NASA via AP)

Geraldyn Cobb was born on March 5, 1931, in Norman, Oklahoma, the second daughter of a military pilot and his wife. She flew her father's cockpit open Waco biplane at age 12 and got her private pilot's license four years later.

Instead of making an astronaut, NASA tapped her as a consultant to talk on the space program. She was dismissed one week after commenting: "I'm the most unconsulted consultant in any government agency."

She wrote in her 1997 autobiography "Jerrie Cobb, Solo Pilot," "My country, my culture, what's not ready to fly in space."

Cobb served as a humanitarian aid pilot in the Amazon jungle.

The Soviet Union ends up putting the first woman into space in 1963: Valentina Tereshkova. NASA did not fly a woman in space – Sally Ride – until 1983.

Cobb and other surviving members of the Mercury 13 attended the 1995 shuttle launch of Eileen Collins, NASA's first female space pilot and later its first female space commander.

Still hopeful, Cobb emerged in 1998 to make another pitch for NASA space. NASA prepared to launch Mercury astronaut John Glenn – the first American to orbit the world – on shuttle Discovery at age 77.

Cobb maintained that the geriatric space study should include an older woman.

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"I would give my life to fly in space, I really would," Cobb told The Associated Press at age 67 in 1998. "It's hard for me to talk about it, but I would. I would then, and I will now. "

"It just did not work out then, and I just hope and pray it now," she added.

It did not. NASA never flew another elderly person in space, male or female.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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