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In this 1960 photo made available by NASA, Jerrie Cobb prepares to operate the Multi-Axis Space Test Inertia Facility (MASTIF) at the Lewis Research Center in Ohio. Image Credit: AP

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: America’s first female astronaut candidate, pilot Jerrie Cobb, who pushed for equality in space but never reached its heights, has died.

Cobb died in Florida at age 88 on March 18 following a brief illness. News of her death came Thursday from journalist Miles O’Brien, serving as a family spokesman.

In 1961, Cobb became the first woman to pass astronaut testing. Altogether, 13 women passed the arduous physical testing and became known as the Mercury 13. But Nasa already had its Mercury 7 astronauts, all jet test pilots and all military men.

None of the Mercury 13 ever reached space, despite Cobb’s testimony in 1962 before a Congressional panel.

“We seek, only, a place in our nation’s space future without discrimination,” she told a special House subcommittee on the selection of astronauts.

Instead of making her an astronaut, Nasa tapped her as a consultant to talk up the space programme. She was dismissed one week after commenting: “I’m the most unconsulted consultant in any government agency.”

She wrote in her 1997 autobiography “Jerrie Cobb, Solo Pilot,” ‘’My country, my culture, was not ready to allow a woman to fly in space.”

Cobb served for decades as a humanitarian aid pilot in the Amazon jungle.