Rocket fuel scientist, Mary Sherman Morgan, was born in Ray, North Dakota, in 1921. During World War II, she interrupted her studies as a chemistry major at Minot State University to take a job designing explosives at a factory in Ohio. In the 1950s, she began working at the North American Aviation company, which won a contract to formulate a more powerful rocket fuel for the fledgling U.S. effort to launch satellites into orbit. Of the roughly 900 rocket scientists at the company, Morgan, the only woman, was named the technical lead of the project. Her work resulted in Hydyne, a rocket fuel composed of 60 percent unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and 40 percent diethylenetriamine. Hydyne was used for the first stage of America’s first successful satellite launch, Explorer 1, in 1958. Throughout her life, Morgan did not receive much credit for her accomplishments. At her funeral, a former coworker told Morgan’s son that his mother had single-handedly saved America’s space program. George Morgan, a playwright, went on to write a play and a book about his mother. (Photo credit: George Morgan, CC BY 3.0)
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