RIP Sally Ride

When I heard the news last week that Sally Ride had died, my first thought was, how sad. She was so young. Then I stopped and thought about the impact her life and her achievements had on women, young and old.

Sally Ride communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck during the six day mission in Challenger, 1983.

Much was made of her venture into space as an astronaut in 1983. She joined NASA in 1978 and, at the age of 32, became the first American woman to enter into low Earth orbit. I can remember watching the newscasts over several nights as she completed the space mission, thinking how exciting it was to see a woman taking on such an important role. How many young women did she inspire to dream big and work hard to achieve that dream?

As how many young women did she encourage to pursue an education in science through her Sally Ride Science company. In 2001, she co-founded the company in an effort to make the study of science and engineering appealing to young people. The company creates entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, with a particular focus on girls. Ride also wrote, or co-wrote, five books on space aimed at children, with the goal of encouraging children to study science.

In 1987, she left NASA to work at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Arms Control. She served on the investigation panels for two space shuttle disasters, Challenger and Columbia, the only person to serve on both. Ride remains the youngest American astronaut to be launched into space.

I decided to write about Sally Ride today after reading a comment in the newspaper by Amy Mainzer, an astrophysicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She was quoted in the Los Angeles Times: “The impact of Sally Ride and women like her cannot be overestimated. She proved that it was possible to work in space physics and as a space scientist and be female at the same time. What she did was prove that you could make it all the way to the top and accomplish amazing things in these fields – and still have a pair of ovaries.”

The world needs more strong women like Sally Ride.

Picture thanks to Wikipedia

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