The passing of Sally Ride (61) yesterday prompted many to remember and celebrate her influence. The first American woman in space in 1983, Ride took her role as a role model to young women seriously, creating the Sally Ride Science foundation in 2001. The program reaches out to boys and girls to interest them in the areas of math and science, fields that fascinated a young Sally enough to make her pursue a career in physics. She died a celebrated physicist and cosmonaut.
Sally made her history-changing trip to space in 1983 on the United States Challenger. She was on the committee to investigate the later Challenger accident. Since her historic voyage, many women traveled to space seeking further knowledge of its wonders. Two of the most notable are Eileen Collins and Pamela Melroy, the first women to ever command a mission.
"I knew I wanted to be an astronaut from watching the Apollo astronauts land on the moon, but Sally cemented the belief inside me that I could do it," Melroy wrote in an email to SPACE.com. "She paved the way for women to work in space and made it so much easier for other women to follow where she led."
When she was questioned on frivolous matters such as wearing makeup or a bra in space in 1983, Sally said: “It’s too bad this is such a big deal. It is too bad our society isn’t further along.”
Hopefully we've come further since, and will continue to move further with the help of strong role models like Sally. An unfortunate aspect of Sally's death is that her female life partner will not be able to receive any benefits from her estate in accordance with the Defense of Marriage Act. Marriage equality, in my opinion, is not an out of this world concept.
Image Courtesy of Engadget.com