R.I.P Sally Ride, First Woman (and Lesbian) In Space
Yesterday America lost one of its most recognizable space pioneers, Dr. Sally Ride, who not only was the first American woman in space, but spent her life advocating for women's greater involvement in science and engineering.
Sally Ride died peacefully on July 23rd, 2012 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless.
Sally was a physicist, the first American woman to fly in space, a science writer, and the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science. She had the rare ability to understand the essence of things and to inspire those around her to join her pursuits.
Sally’s historic flight into space captured the nation’s imagination and made her a household name. She became a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers and a hero to generations of adventurous young girls. After retiring from NASA, Sally used her high profile to champion a cause she believed in passionately—inspiring young people, especially girls, to stick with their interest in science, to become scientifically literate, and to consider pursuing careers in science and engineering.
In addition to Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years, Sally is survived by her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin, and nephew, Whitney; her staff of 40 at Sally Ride Science; and many friends and colleagues around the country.
This statement about her partner told the public what they hadn't known before--Ride was in a same-sex relationship. "I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them," her sister Bear Ride told Buzzfeed. We still have a ways to go, though. Because of DOMA, however, her partner will not receive federal benefits.
At Double X, Laura Helmuth notes that Sally Ride was the best ambassador for space flight around, besting her male colleagues' commitment, but also cautions:
The fact that it took until 1983 to have a female astronaut just emphasized NASA’s nasty history of sexism. The United States could have sent the first woman into space much, much earlier. The Mercury program trained 13 women starting in 1961. They performed well, but despite their skills (or perhaps because of them), the program was eventually canceled. NASA redefined its astronaut prerequisites to include jet fighter experience, thereby ruling out any possibility of female candidate