Sally Ride
1951–2012

Sally Ride
00:00 / 03:55

Video about Sally: History in 5 Minutes

*singing* “All you have to do is ride along Sally. Ride, Sally, Ride”

 

I just had to. They sang it at Sally’s first space shuttle launch.

Sally Ride was born in 1951 in California. She was an avid tennis player developing the hand eye coordination that would later help her in operating the space shuttel’s robotic arm. She was so good she nearly went pro. Her dear friend Tam actually did play professional for a while before also becoming a scientist. 

 

There is a little sling shot in the box here. If you put it in it’s stand, you can test your hand eye coordination trying to shoot the stars into the rocket ship

 

Sally Ride went to Stanford University studying Astrophysics with the ambition to be an astrophysicist and a teacher. In 1978, when NASA put out a call out for female astronauts Sally jumped at the opportunity. 

She was one of 5 women selected out of 8,000 applications. Of the 5 women trained, Sally was was the one chosen to go up first. She went through 4 years of rigorous training, doing things like parachuting into shark infested waters. 

 

While Sally trained tirelessly and no less was expected from her than her male colleagues; press constantly asked her ridiculous questions. They would ask about what makeup she would wear and if she might cry when something went wrong. They even went as far as to fabricate an answer to a question she was never even asked. Whether she would wear a bra in space? The answer they made up was, “the with no gravity it wouldn’t matter”.  Sally handled this all with expert grace laughing it off.

 

She worked for NASA for 9 years as an astronaut doing two missions. She made significant contributions to the development of the space shuttle’s robotic arm. When the military was looking at integrating women into the service they interviewed Sally about her experience living in close quarters with men.

 

One of her goals was to show that women are capable of doing any job.

She was an icon to any young girl who was interested in science or ever dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Sally was aware of her impact and while she didn’t enjoy the celebrity she wanted to make a leave positive legacy. 

 

When she chose to end her time at NASA she moved into teaching at the university level for 25 years. She continued to be a trusted advisor and was called in to serve on the committees that investigated the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters. Her contributions were key to solving the investigation and help NASA improve it’s safety going forward. She was happy to do this because she believed in NASAs work and wanted to help them improve.

 

In this time she also co-wrote children’s books with the aim to inspire young scientists. She wrote these books with her life partner Tam O’Shaughnessy; the same friend she’s played tennis with as a teenager. 

 

Tam and Sally were not only a loving couple but also business partners founding, Sally Ride Science. While Sally never precisely hid her sexuality, she was a fiercely private person and never publicly came out. After Sally’s death from pancreatic cancer in 2012, Tam made their relationship public in Sally obituary. Just as Sally had wanted.

 

Not long after Sally passed, Tam began work on a picture book of Sally’s life. She wanted Sally’s story told accurately and in full. A quite profound way to grieve if you ask me.

 

In interviews, Tam speaks about Sally with love and admiration. Both for her contribution to science and her dedication to creating a legacy. I watched an interview where Tam spoke about what joy Sally took in her work; and how she found fun in challenges. I honestly can’t decided which I admire more, Sally’s contribution to the scientific world or the love and respect Tam and Sally shared.