Ann Dickson loved science fiction from an early age and wanted to be an astronaut during the time of the space race between the United States and the USSR that had started in the mid-1950s.
Dickson was hired by Douglas Aircraft to work in scheduling logistics and the company offered to send her to UCLA to earn a degree in engineering studies. In 1961 when President Kennedy announced that by the end of the decade the United States would send men to the moon and bring them back safely, Dickson was inspired by his words and applied to work for the company that would be handling the Apollo Program.
Shortly after graduating she accepted a position to work for North American Aviation with the goal of working on the manned mission to the moon. Dickson’s job was in special test equipment–reusing equipment that had been used for testing satellites and rockets to test systems for the new mission. The department also designed and wrote testing procedures for the project.
After a few years working with the Apollo program she was hired away by TRW to work on weapons systems and as a contract program manager on advanced satellite programs where she would develop procedures and participate in industry and government training sessions.
But she didn’t give up on her dream of becoming an astronaut–even though at the time women were not considered as potential candidates for the space program. In her drive to achieve her goal she applied to The Lovelace Women in Space Program, a private astronaut training program. This program tested women’s capabilities for space flight and although a total of 13 women went through the same rigorous testing as their male astronaut counterparts, Ann Dickson was not a selected as she lacked the hours of flying time that were required for candidate consideration.
While she wasn’t given the opportunity to travel to space she didn’t give up on advocating for other women to have the chance–a goal that was accomplished before her retirement with Sally Ride’s historic flight in 1983.
Written by Angela Goad