7 books that tell the real story about the women behind the moonshot

By Julie Provost

Following the daring, large dream of President John F. Kennedy to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, the scientific and military communities put their heads down and worked. The Soviet Union had put the first man into space, but the US was determined that the first feet on the moon would be American, not Russian.

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin became the first three humans to land on the moon. Most people have heard about these astronauts before but have rarely heard the stories of the people behind the scenes. There were many–including women–who contributed to the nationwide effort.

Here are seven books that will give you the real story about the women behind the moonshot…

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

Before anyone went to the moon, NASA’s “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets and astronauts into space. Within this group of problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Hidden Figures is their story.

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel


Overnight, the wives of the America’s Mercury 7 astronauts were transformed from military spouses into American royalty. This book is all about these women– what they went through and what life was like for them as they watched their husbands become American heroes.

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt

Learn more about the women who worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as “human computers.” Rise of the Rocket Girls tells the story of women who were able to break the boundaries of both gender and science and that made exploration of the solar system possible.

Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s First Female Rocket Scientist by George D. Morgan.

Rocket Girl is the true story of Mary Sherman Morgan, farm girl from North Dakota who became America’s first female rocket scientist. Written by her son, the book is about his mother’s contribution to launching America’s first satellite.

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone and The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight by Martha Ackmann

When NASA was created in 1958, being male was a requirement to become an astronaut. Despite the restriction, the women of the Mercury 13 made important contributions to the space race. They never made it into orbit but they blazed a trail in the sciences just the same and these two books tell their stories.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

This is an illustrated and educational book that highlights the contributions of 50 notable women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, including Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon.