The Purple Plain is a short film which tells the true story of the first American women who trained for space flight.


In 1959 a handful of men were selected by NASA from over 500 American test pilots to be the first in space. They were known as the Mercury 7 and they would helm America’s Cold War battle to establish a space platform and eventually claim the moon.

Rigorously tested by Dr. Randolph Lovelace and judged to be the best, the men – including Captain Alan Shepherd and Major John Glenn – had that elusive quality known as “The Right Stuff.” They became heroes even before they reached for the stars. Whilst the free world embraced them, a second series of state secret tests located 13 more pilots whose talents eclipsed those of the chosen 7. Their psychological and physical endurance broke records, their tolerance astounding the scientists. Better suited to the rigours of space flight, their life-long battle for recognition and their drive to be the best of the best had endowed them with the right stuff and so much more. To date, the world knows little of these individuals … because they were women.

This is the story of how close the Mercury 13 came to space, and their battle, not simply against their male peers, or government agencies, but the entire social system of the early 60s. A system that, as pioneers and adventurers, they had so far managed to overcome…


The Purple Plain is BFI-backed film made through the screen agency Film London, London Calling Plus Scheme. A talent development program specifically designed to nurture the next filmmakers from minority backgrounds. In addition to backing from the BFI and Film London, The Purple Plain also campaigned for crowdfunding via Kickstarter.