Death Valley Moon Test

July 1968: It was widely reported that Kathie Pieper, recent winner of the Miss AAU California beauty contest, would be participating in a hike through Death Valley. The hike was said to be part of an experiment conducted by researchers at the California Institute of Technology, in cooperation with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, that would have "something to do with testing clothing and other equipment that could be used if man ever landed on the moon." Pieper agreed to go on the hike after being contacted by a JPL official who told her she was "just the type of girl they were looking for."

See below in extended for the follow-up.

The Fresno Bee - July 19, 1968

So, did the details of this story sound strange to you? They did to me. Why would JPL have needed a beauty queen to participate in a lunar clothing experiment? And, sure enough, I managed to find a follow-up story that confirmed my suspicion. The "experiment" was a ruse:

it turned out the men simply wanted to test themselves against the rigors of Death Valley on a weekend off from work. There was nothing experimental involved, except perhaps an invitation to a pretty girl to go along.

The guy who contacted her was Richard Brodie. It would have been interesting if, despite the deceptive ruse, they had hit it off and ended up getting married. But no. Seems they went their separate ways. I found a bio of Brodie which says he married a woman from Rochester, New York and had eight kids with her.

     Posted By: Alex - Thu Jul 13, 2023
     Category: Deceit, Trickery, Subterfuge and General Slyness | Experiments | 1960s

More Pieper family history. They were/are an interesting lot.
Posted by San Diego Navy Vet on 07/13/23 at 02:36 PM
San Diego Navy Vet -- that's a great find! Sounds like Kathie Pieper came from an athletic family.
Posted by Alex on 07/13/23 at 05:27 PM
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