Deke must recruit female astronauts after Russia lands a woman on the moon.
Gordo Stevens gets off a plane and greets his coworkers, bumping into Tracy Stevens, who he had met earlier. He asks her why she is there, and she tells him she wanted to learn how to fly. She asks him for instructors, and he takes her flying with him in order to teach her, but she quickly shows a lot of talent for flying, later revealing she had been flying for 745 hours. After landing, both of them kiss.
Gene Kranz and Deke Slayton tell a general from the Pentagon that they were converting the third stage of the Saturn V into an orbiting workshop, also mentioning that von Braun called it Skylab. The construction was already underway in Huntsville, but it was early enough to change the trajectory of the process. The general asks Gene how many people could fit inside it, since it did not look big, and Deke replies that three astronauts could do it at a time for the first stages until there could be further expansions. However, Apollo missions were now being reassigned to survey potential sites for the military base.
Thomas walks into the room, and speaks to Deke and Gene alone, telling them that the president now wanted to land a woman on the moon. Gene finds this to be an issue, however, since NASA did not have female astronauts. Deke also adds that he can not just choose a random woman, they would have to be trained to be astronauts, and not all of them would pass his tests. However, Thomas does not want Deke to train them properly, which he opposes.
Deke was presented with 13 women who used to be called "Mercury 13", of which only two were left who were still flying: Molly Cobb, who set aviation records for long-distance flight, won several racing awards qualified in single and multi-engine aircrafts and was first in her class in Mercury 13, but she was not what the president was looking for since she was not up to beauty standards. Patty Doyle was also a candidate, having passed the Mercury test with flying colors, and finished second behind Cobb. Deke agreed with both choices, and was presented with more candidates, of which Danielle Poole, who already worked at NASA was also part of.
Thomas walked in, mentioning the president had also loved the idea of Gordo flying with Tracy. Deke does not approve, but he was told Tracy was the only one who really looked like she could represent the USA.
When Deke told Gordo and Tracy the news, Gordo said they would need to discuss it in private, but Tracy did not wait and accepted, and shook Deke's hand. Gordo got excited for Tracy, but she only asked if he really was okay with it, which Gordo confirmed, revealing that Deke had also given him a spot on Apollo 15.
The Baldwin family watched television when they found out Tracy was recruited for NASA's female astronaut problem. Karen Baldwin thought it was ridiculous, but Ed mentioned he had heard a rumor that Deke had threatened to resign. However, Ed mentioned Tracy flying was none of his concern only to be told by Karen that these women were simply going to waltz in and go to space, ignoring all the training men like Ed did.
On January 6, 1970, Tracy walked into NASA and walked into the room where all other 19 candidates were. She was joined by Danielle Poole, while Molly Cobb was joined by Patty Doyle, whom she told she was glad would be behind her like in the old days, which made Doyle smile. Deke walked in and introduced himself, telling them this would be a vigorous training, during which he expected a lot less than the 20 candidates to stay. He explained they would be graded as they went along, which included pilot performance, academics, character, and motivation. He would be posting results every so often; if their names were not on the list, they were cut from the program.
The women talked while they waited to see Janice fly. Cobb mentioned the jet she was flying had too much speed, which was shown to be true when Janice did not land correctly. Next was Tracy's turn: During her flight, Ed was helping guide her and instructed her on how to land. In the end, Tracy landed the jet smoothly, which Deke liked.
Later, Tracy picked up her kids from Karen's home. While she was there, Karen congratulated her on making it through the first cut. Tracy gave Ed credit for this achievement, and Karen mentioned she hoped Ed would still be focused enough for Apollo 15.
On day 55 of the course, 15 candidates were left, and Margo was giving a class in which she explained how to safely return the crew. Since Molly was not paying attention, Margo helped her with her crossword puzzle in order to get her attention back. Molly defended herself by saying she understood the reentry equations, prompting Margo to give them a pop quiz. During the quiz, Molly got up and turned hers in, which Margo checked and found Cobb had gotten full marks on.
Later, while checking the list, Janice found out she was cut, while both Cobb and Doyle got in. When it was Tracy's turn to check the list, she found she was in the 12th position, which was last.
At Outpost Tavern, Cobbs and Doyle played pool, while Doyle noticed all the men were pretending not to hate their presence. However, Molly was more worried about the other women who were participating in the program, since they have no idea how bad it will get when the program is inevitably closed.
While the rest of the women talked at Outpost, Tracy mentioned she had not flown anything too glamorous, and had not really considered flying as a career before. The conversation shifted to them talking about Molly and Patty. They agreed Patty was nice, but thought Molly would be more encouraging.
During a simulator, Tracy was assigned with Danielle and Molly. There, Tracy yawned while Danielle responded to a question. Molly snapped her fingers at Tracy, and told her to be ready; when it was Tracy's turn, she was told to open all four helium iso valves, which she could not find until told by Molly.
As another exercise, Margo told the engineers to fail the guidance computer and have them come in manually, which the lead engineer mentioned they were too unexperienced to do. Margo, however, countered by saying they could not wait for them to be ready. While the engineer was doing that, he made a voice, which incited a discussion about a movie with a candidate, but Margo told them to flirt later.
Inside the simulator, Molly understood when there was a master caution alarm since primary guidance had failed, recognizing they needed to do it manually. Tracy was confused, but Molly told her to take manual control, guiding her on what to do. However, Tracy did not want to listen to Molly and ended up "killing" them in the simulation. Molly was annoyed at this, and reminded her that a lot of exceptions had been made for her, so she did not see a reason to complain about anything, especially since she did not see why she had still made the cut up until then.
At home, Tracy realized Molly was right and told Gordo it was a joke for her to still be in the program. However, Gordo supported her by saying she had a real chance, and had been told that her jet scores had been among the highest in the class. Gordo told her to see the test program through, but Tracy said she should have been cut weeks ago, but Shorty wanted a space couple. When the argument started heating up, Gordo told Tracy to have guts, but Tracy retaliated by asking if he really thought she was the one with no guts. She told him to get out of the house while throwing things at him.
At a meeting in NASA, the possibility of ice being on the moon was discussed. However, this could not be confirmed. Ed mentioned they could find more about it on Apollo 15. Gene mentioned water on the moon could change everything, with Ray emphasizing that they could drink it, grow plants, and make rocket fuel. At the end of the meeting, Thomas asked Deke how "Nixon's women" were doing, specifically Tracy. Deke told him that the women were doing desert survival training, which surprised Thomas. He told Deke there was no way they could haul a 40-pound pack 20 miles in the desert sun, but Deke argued that if they could not handle the desert, they could not handle the moon.
At desert survival training, Deke told them it was not a teamwork-building assignment, and they would each be timed and graded on their individual performances. They each had a walkie-talkie, but if they used it, they would immediately fail the must-pass test.
At one point, Tracy dropped her water while Molly made it to the finish line in ten hours and twelve minutes. She was happy with being first, until she found out Patty had come first.
While Tracy walked, she found Ellen who had fallen and hurt her foot, however, she mentioned she could not use the walkie-talkie. Tracy helped her and told her it was probably a bad sprain. In order to help with the sun, Tracy covered up with Ellen and got to know her a little better in the process, finding out Ellen's family owned Cavalier Airlines.
After a while, Deke called out through his walkie-talkie, and told all remaining candidates to radio their approximate location. Since he got no response, he radioed again, but was responded by Tracy, who told him he did not need to shout. Paramedics received Ellen, and Tracy was given water while Deke reminded her it was not a team exercise: Ellen should have radioed and Tracy should not have stopped to help her, but Tracy told him that she was not going to leave her behind, and he would not have done it either.
Later, when results were posted, Cobb was angry that Doyle had passed her, while Danielle pointed out that there were letters written to them by fans all over the world.
Deke called Tracy to his office, where he told her he had a lot of respect for what she had done at the desert training. She mentioned it was nothing, but Deke told her he had gone through the same training on Mercury. He told her that what is coming is dangerous stuff, and that he did not think she had the skill set, and told her she should be proud of what she has done. However, he also said he would not cut her, but recommended she withdraw from the program, but she told him she would not drop out.
On day 200 of the program, Ed introduced the five remaining candidates to the LEM simulator, which would emulate the flight dynamics of the lunar module spacecraft. He told them it was sort of like a helicopter, with a few distinctions. He told them that the activity for that day would be to perform basic takeoff and landing maneuvers with each of them flying an altitude of 300 feet, hover 30 seconds, execute a 360 clockwise spin, hover for another 30 seconds, and land on a target.
Tracy's turn was first, so she got in, and started flying, while Gordo drove his car. As he drove, he saw a fire at NASA and drove back only to see firefighters swarming the area. Ed intercepted him, and told him she was fine. Tracy saw Gordo and hugged him, telling him that Patty had crashed.
- Joel Kinnaman - Edward Baldwin
- Michael Dorman - Gordo Stevens
- Sarah Jones - Tracy Stevens
- Shantel VanSanten - Karen Baldwin
- Jodi Balfour - Ellen Waverly
- Wrenn Schmidt - Margo Madison
- Chris Bauer - Deke Slayton
- Sonya Walger - Molly Cobb
- Eric Ladin - Gene Kranz
- Michael Harney - Jack Broadstreet
- Dan Donohue - Thomas Paine
- Krys Marshall - Danielle Poole
- Cass Buggé - Patty Doyle
- Nate Corddry - Larry Wilson
- Brian Stepanek - Shorty Powers
- Spencer Garrett - Roger Scott
- Teya Patt - Emma
- Teddy Blum - Young Shane Baldwin
- Jason David - Young Daniel Stevens
- Benjamin Seay - Ray Schumer
- Dan Warner - General Arthur Weber
- Devin McCarthy - Janice
- Kate Rodman - Megan
- Leia Hurst - Barbara
- Ben Burton - Murph
- Nick Echols - Chaddie