The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

The basics

Title: The Calculating Stars


Series: Lady Astronaut Universe #1

- The Calculating Stars (2018)
- The Fated Sky (2018)
- The Relentless Moon (2020)
- The Martian Contingency

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Goodreads Summary:

On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.

Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

Read a full summary of The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal below. If you can’t remember what happened in The Calculating Stars and you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.

What happened in The Calculating Stars?

  • Elma and her husband are on holiday in a cabin when a meteorite hits the East Coast. It completely decimates Washington DC and destroys a lot of Virginia and the Carolinas – where Elma’s family is from.
  • Elma and her husband fly up north in a small plane and they help to form the International Aerospace Coalition. Because Elma is a woman in 1952, and despite becing a WASP pilot and expert mathematician, she’s not allowed to go into space with the men.
  • Nathaniel is a scientist and super important so he fills Elma in on what’s happening a lot.
  • The Earth begins to cool. The meteorite has a massive impact on the weather and throws everything off kilter. Scientists decide that space travel may be the only option for the human race so they kickstart the space race early.
  • The lunar mission begins. There are some snags along the way but it does work out. Of course, only men are allowed to be astronauts at this point in time.
  • Elma gets back in touch with her brother, who’s on the west coast. He’s alive and well.
  • Elma learns that her aunt is also alive and survived the disaster in the Carolinas. Her aunt comes up to stay with her and they’re reunited.
  • Elma starts training women to be pilots, or helping them practice, with the view that these women could eventually join in with the space race as they’re more qualified than some of the men.
  • Elma has to take anxiety meds and this is frowned upon. Parker finds out, but Elma finds out that Parker isn’t well and shouldn’t be on the mission himself.
  • The women are chosen as part of the space mission. Elma has to keep her medication secret and it worried that Parker will out her.
  • Artemis 9 takes off and heads to the moon with Elma on board. She’s officially an astronaut.

This is a full plot summary of what happened in The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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