Friday, June 7, 2013

Remember Her?

     Do you what what happened 30 years ago this month?

     Here's a hint. The woman in question was once asked, "Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?" And, "Do you think your [trip] will affect your reproductive organs?"

     She was a California girl. Her father taught political science at Santa Monica College, and her mother volunteered at a women's correctional facility. Both her parents were elders at their Presbyterian church, and her sister later became a Presbyterian minister.

     She was a smart kid, right from the beginning. She won a scholarship to a private high school in Los Angeles, where she showed particular promise in the sciences and became nationally ranked in juniors tennis. She graduated from high school in 1968 and decided to head east to Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. But after three semesters she felt the pull back to California, so she first went home and took some physics courses at UCLA, then transferred to Stanford, graduating with a dual degree in English and physics. She then continued at Stanford and earned a master's degree in physics in 1975 and a PhD in physics in 1978.

Stanford University
     As she was finishing up her PhD, she answered an employment ad in the newspaper ... along with about 8,000 other applicants. She became one of 35 people offered a job at NASA -- 29 men and 6 women -- and started training to be an astronaut. She was a ground-based capsule communicator for the second flight of the Space Shuttle in 1981, and again for the third Space Shuttle in 1982.

     On June 18, 1983, now 30 years ago, she became the first American woman in space, as one of a five-member crew aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, the 7th Space Shuttle flight. Among her accomplishments, she used the Challenger robot arm to retrieve a satellite.

     In 1984 she flew into space a second time, again aboard the Challenger, and before the flight was over she had logged some 343 hours in space.

     In January 1986 she was eight months into training for her third space flight, slated to also be aboard the Challenger, when the Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven of its crew members including teacher Christa McAuliffe and fellow female astronaut Judith Resnick.

     The now-veteran astronaut, Sally Ride, was named to the Rogers Commission which investigated the crash and determined it was O-ring failure that caused the explosion. Following this assignment, Ride moved to Washington, DC, to head up NASA's strategic planning efforts.

     In 1987 Ride left NASA and went to work in international security at Stanford University. In 1989 she became a physics professor at University of California, San Diego, as well as director of the University of California Space Institute. She continued to work with NASA in promoting science education and founded Sally Ride Science, a company that creates interesting science programs for middle school kids. She also co-authored several books on space, aiming to encourage children to study science.

     Sally Ride married fellow astronaut Steve Hawley in 1982. They had no children, and divorced in 1987. She had a partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy, a science teacher and long-time friend who co-wrote her books and who later become an executive at Sally Ride Science.

     At the beginning of 2011 Ride was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She died on July 23, 2012, at the age of 61. America's first female astronaut was always a little uneasy about her fame, and wanted to keep her private life private, from her sexuality to her battle with cancer. But she nevertheless won many awards and citations, and just last month President Obama announced she would be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to be presented to her family later this year.



DJan said...

Oh, I do remember indeed. She was a role model for many of us. Ride, Sally, Ride... I remember that, too. She was a great person. Thanks for the reminder, Tom. :-)

Joanne Noragon said...

Lovely tribute. My daughters were teenagers when Sally came into the news. She was a role model for them and all women.

Stephen Hayes said...

I remember what an inspiration Sally Ride was and how sad I was when she died. Thanks for bringing her to our attention.

Meryl Baer said...

Remember her well. She was a great role-model for millions of girls and young women.

Anonymous said...

I remember when she passed away and all the brouhaha about her being a lesbian, who the h--- cares for that fact. She is a tremendous human being no other woman did what she did and young at that at NASA an all man dominated place..She to me will forever be Ride Sally Ride to the heavens and beyond, she showed how smart, and curious and outstanding one woman & human being can be, she loved science and wanted all young kids to love it too not just females, but she broke the barrier for a woman to do what she did, I say bravo..I am a baby booomer and enjoy your blog, not many women like Sally Ride anymore but many woman are finding big discoveries and for that I am totally grateful..Ride into the Heavens Sally Ride!!!!!!!!!!!