I am very sad to say that Sally Ride has passed at the age of 61 after fighting pancreatic cancer.
Sally Ride was not the first name of an astronaut I knew or heard (the first name I really remember is John Glenn. I think the KareBear liked the cut of his jib or something). But something about Ride stuck with me not just because she was the first woman in space, but because she felt always seemed like the embodiment The Modern Space Program. She rode shuttles, not capsules. She wore the blue jumpsuit. She was a pilot, a space jockey and a scientist. She was the Shuttle era and the promise it held.
We all grew up proud of the name Sally Ride, but it wasn't until I was older that I appreciated how amazing Ride must have been to actually win that seat on Challenger and the pressure on her to not just be as capable of her male colleagues, but much more capable lest anyone seize the opportunity to hold her up as an example of why giving her a chance was a mistake. I cannot begin to imagine.
And Ride pulled it off.
She succeeded not just at NASA, but went on to teach at UC-San Diego, formed a company to create educational materials for young scientists, and served as a consultant in aerospace and defense arenas.
Here's to one of the real pioneers of the era in which I was raised. You will be missed.