Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

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Women in the Air Force – displays in Missile Gallery

Female Missileers

In June 1978, women joined the previously male-only missile launch control center as combat crew commanders and missile technicians. Women’s presence in the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) career field initially raised objections amongst missileer spouses due to the possibility of misconduct in mixed-gender crews. The first female missileers were assigned to the Titan II because of the additional space available for crewmember’s privacy. 

With the deactivation of the Titan ICBM, female missileers transferred to Minuteman and Peacekeeper crews. Initially, these crews were single sex until scheduling proved too difficult. On January 1, 1988, Strategic Air Command amended its policy, allowing for mixed male/female crew assignments.

Bea’s Diner

Beatrice Finkelstein, a research nutritionist and dietitian in the Aerospace Medical Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, made some of the first food eaten in space. Focused on how the human body functioned in space and the effects of food on astronauts she conducted many experiments. The formulas she created had to be suitable for space travel while also meeting nutritional requirements for aircraft pilots. 

Finkelstein determined astronauts needed bland, high-protein, low-residue diets for 72-96 hours prior to launch to reduce the need to defecate while in flight since it was difficult to remove protective clothing. She believed food consumed while in flight still needed to be enjoyable to reduce boredom, irritability, and mistakes. Her creations of thin, high-protein semi-liquid substances in collapsible tubes were easy to eat and also safe in zero gravity due to the absence of crumbs.

On February 20, 1962, Project Mercury astronaut John Glenn became the first American to eat a meal while in orbit. His meal of pureed beef with vegetables and applesauce aboard Friendship 7 proved the lack of gravity did not affect an astronaut’s ability to swallow.