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In Brief

Exclusive 'Chasing the Moon' Clip Spotlights Poppy Northcutt, NASA's 1st Woman in Mission Control

She was a trailblazer among trailblazers: An exclusive new clip from the upcoming PBS documentary "Chasing the Moon" profiles the challenges and triumphs of Poppy Northcutt, the first woman to work in Mission Control.

Northcutt was a return-to-Earth specialist who worked in the Mission Control in Houston starting with Apollo 8.

"I started off working as a computress — I don't know why they called them computresses — we weren't necessarily doing computer work," Northcutt says in the video. "It was sort of like 'Mad Men'; that was a fairly accurate description of the world for women. But I was really fascinated. I wanted to know what I was doing and why I was doing it, and I had a math degree. I'd taken a celestial mechanics course."

Poppy Northcutt, pictured here in 1968, was the first woman in an operational support role to work in NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston. (Image credit: Courtesy of ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo)

Eventually, she made it into Mission Control, and her modern-day description of what it was like is interspersed with news coverage she appeared in from the era.

"The mere fact that a lot of women found out for the first time that there was a woman in Mission Control was a very big deal," Northcutt says in the clip. "I thought it was important that people understand that women can do these jobs — going into science, going into technology. Doing something that's not stereotypical."

"Chasing the Moon," airing July 8-10 in the PBS "American Experience" series, will be a six-part documentary about the space race just in time for the Apollo 11 moon landing's 50th anniversary. According to a statement from PBS, in addition to profiling Northcutt, the series includes interviews with astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Frank Borman and Bill Anders; futurist Freeman Dyson; Sergei Khrushchev, a rocket engineer and the son of former Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev; and Ed Dwight, who trained as America's first black astronaut. The series is written, produced and directed by Robert Stone.

Email Sarah Lewin at slewin@space.com or follow her @SarahExplains. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

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