It’s almost a week since Dr Sally Ride passed on. Tributes continue as her colleagues and regular people like you and me weigh in on how she influenced our perception of what is possible. I was a teenager when she flew into the history books on the STS-7 mission on the shuttle Challenger. It opened my eyes to a whole world of possibility. From that first mission to her final days she continued to show new generations that world of possibility, so I say hats of to Sally Ride.
Listen to Dr Sally Ride talk about that first momentous flight. She describes the experience and the focus required. There was a very clear sense of how huge this was. Despite the pressure, with characteristic dedication and discipline, she concentrated on getting the job done.
Hats off to Sally Ride
Margaret Lazarus Dean reveals what was going on behind the scenes and what strength of character it took to achieve so much with the prevailing dis-empowering culture. I think it is a great send off for the late great Sally Ride.
Sally Ride was chosen as an astronaut in 1978, when I was six years old. I remember seeing her on the news, along with the other five women selected in that group, the first astronaut class to include women, members of racial minorities and non-pilots. The space shuttle was going to be a different type of spacecraft, and these six women posing for the cameras, dressed casually and leaning on a wooden fence together, embodied that difference like nothing I’d ever seen. My nose practically touched the screen as I took them in — their feathered hair, their bright makeup, their intelligent eyes. Anna Fisher, Shannon Lucid, Judith Resnik, Sally Ride, Rhea Seddon and Kathryn Sullivan. Here was a new way to be a woman in the world. It’s hard to convey now how odd they looked to us, how much they were changing the definition of the word “astronaut,” just by existing, even though none of them would go to space for years.
Now we know that not everyone took to the women kindly. Space culture was overwhelmingly male and largely chauvanist in the seventies, and the idea of women going into space alongside men was far from universally accepted. In his autobiography Riding Rockets, astronaut Mike Mullane, who was chosen in the same astronaut class, admits to treating the women astronauts he worked with in ways we would now classify as harassment. Mullane distrusted all the women at first, but especially targeted Sally Ride because he perceived her as a feminist — not just there because she wanted to fly in space, but because she wanted to make political point.
She leaves us with a rich legacy and an imperative to reach for the stars. Hats off to Sally Ride.
Where were you when Sally Ride made history?
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