Instrumentation Controller, Apollo Launch Control
JoAnn Morgan entered the firing room at Kennedy Space Center early one morning in 1964, took a seat at a console, and began to prepare for a test of the Saturn IB rocket, which eventually would launch the first manned Apollo flight four years later. She didn't even have time to plug in her headset before the launch director walked up to her and politely said, “We don't allow women in here.”
Morgan, a twenty-three-year-old brunette, said there must be a mistake. She told the launch director she had been sent by Carl Sendler, an Austrian scientist and one of the leading members of NASA's rocket development team. The director shook his head the whole time Morgan was talking. “We don't allow women in here,” he said again.
And he was correct. Females had never been permitted in the firing room, located about three miles from the launch pad. There wasn't even a women's restroom in the facility.
But times were about to change.
Morgan phoned Sendler and told him she was being asked to leave. Sendler responded: “Plug your headset in and get to work. Get that test done! I'll take care of that guy.”
The director, new to NASA via the Navy, had no way of knowing Morgan's experience at Cape Canaveral, and apparently no one took the time to fill him in. She worked her first launch at the age of seventeen— five days after graduating from high school—as an engineer's aide with the Army Ballistic Missile Agency. She used a device similar to a telescope to help track the vehicle and assess whether the rocket's two stages separated properly. She was back at the Cape every summer during college,