Marianne J. Dyson

Women in Mission Control

Skylab/Apollo Soyuz Programs

The lists below are based on personal interviews and NASA press releases of Mission Control Room staffing from Skylab 4, the third manned flight. I have not found staffing lists for the other Skylab flights. If you have them, please contact me! Note, this list is only for Johnson Space Center and does NOT include launch controllers from Langley or Kennedy Space Center.


Skylab 1 was launched, unmanned, on May 14, 1973. Skylab 2 began with the launch of the crew on May 25 and lasted until their return on June 22, 1973. Skylab 3 began with the launch of the crew on July 25 and ended with their return on September 25, 1973. Skylab 4 began on November 16, 1973, and ended with the crew return on February 8, 1974. I have not found staffing lists or rosters for Skylab 1 to 3, and only partial data for Skylab 4.

Unless the data for Skylabs 1-3 is located and shows otherwise, the first woman to hold a primary technical position in the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) was Dr. Carolyn L. Huntoon who worked the Experiments console during Skylab 4. She later became the first female director of Johnson Space Center.

Carolyn Huntoon, the only woman in this photo of Skylab scientists, was the first woman to work in the Mission Operations Control Room (versus a support room). I could not find any photos of her on console. (NASA photo) Click to see larger image.

The following photo shows three women, two of whom are not identified: a woman with shoulder-length dark hair in the center, and another to her right with short hair and wearing a short sleeved shirt. The woman farthest to the right is Virginia Nester who was about 40 in this photo taken in 1973. Diane Freeman, who confirmed to me that she worked all three manned Skylab flights, is not in this photo. The flight director for this team is Chuck Lewis who is near the center of the first row behind the inbox and next to (I think) Harold Draughan who has on a striped shirt. I have identified some of the other men in this image, but not the other two women. Please contact me if you recognize them or want names of anyone else pictured.

Click to see larger image.

Skylab Supporting Flight Controllers

I'm sure there were more women in support room positions, but I've only identified and confirmed two as having worked Skylab.

  • Diane Freeman, Timeline, SL 2, 3, and 4
  • Virginia Nester, secretarial support

Apollo-Soyuz 1975

The Apollo Soyuz mission was launched July 15, 1975 with a crew of three Americans that rendezvoused with two Russians in a Soyuz on July 17, undocked on July 19, and returned to Earth on July 24, 1975.

No women were identified in MOCR positions, though some of the Flight Surgeons may have been female: they are listed only by their initials. However, there were women working in technical and nontechnical positions in support rooms.

Apollo-Soyuz Supporting Flight Controllers

  • Natalie Latter, Interpreter with the State Department
  • Tamara Holmes, Interpreter
  • Irene Zavoico, Public Affairs, Kentron contractor
  • Natalie Karakuldo, Public Affairs, Kentron contractor
  • Ada Taylor, Public Affairs, Rockwell contractor
  • Sandra N. McGee, Public Affairs, currier
  • Dorothy Hamilton, secretarial support
  • Constance Critzas,secretarial support
  • Judith Wyatt, secretarial support
  • Virginia Nester,secretarial support
  • Janet Pacek, secretarial support
  • Barbara Perkins, secretarial support
  • Lucille Booth, secretarial support
  • Catherine Wyche, secretarial support

Skylab Reentry 1979

Several women were assigned to technical positions in the MOCR as part of the Skylab Re-entry support team. Skylab re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and burned up, except for a piece that landed in Australia, on July 11, 1979, ending this program.

  • 1. Bonnie J. Dunbar - Guidance, Navigation, and Control. She was selected as an astronaut in 1980 and flew five Space Shuttle flights.
  • 2. Cindy Major - Guidance, Navigation, and Control
  • 3. Debbie Pawkett - ASCO=ATMDC (Apollo Telescope Mount Digital Camera) Software Control Officer

The above lists of women who worked the missions between the end of Apollo and the beginning of the Space Shuttle Program is certainly incomplete. I hope that relatives, co-workers, and other space researchers find these names and learn about their contributions. If you are one of these people, please contact me with updates, additions, and corrections: especially if you know the married names of any that are listed under maiden names, or the birth and/or death dates. Thank you for taking a few minutes to read their names and recognize their contributions to the American Space Program.

MORE INFO - International Women's Air & Space Museum

What is it like to be a flight controller? Read my memoir, A Passion for Space, or invite me to speak.

Learn about: - International Women's Air & Space Museum

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