“I think that maybe it’s too bad that our society isn’t further along, and that this is such a big deal.” -- Sally Ride, May 24, 1983
Less than a month later, Ride would be the first American woman and the youngest person to enter space.
At the time, Miss Baker sent her a telegram welcoming her to the “Great Sorority of Space.”
Miss Baker was a squirrel monkey — the oldest known squirrel monkey and the only still-living animal known, at the time, to have flown to space.
Jane Fonda was present for the launch but too tired to attend a pre-launch reception hosted by NASA. Her then-husband, California Assemblyman Tom Hayden attended in her place, and he didn’t lack for enthusiasm when it came to women in science. He was quoted as saying, “Every little girl in America will think it’s normal to endure and excel in the space program. This will encourage them to aspire not just to their equal share of civil rights, but also to equal participation in high-tech industries in the future.”
That was nearly 30 years ago.
Today, the campaign to encourage young women to take a place at the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) table continues — and it is a campaign Ride was very much a part of. Her death at the age of 61 from pancreatic cancer was a blow to the scientific community not only because of her place in history but because of her years of work afterwards — all while purposefully avoiding the spotlight. Ride advised presidents, served as a physics professor at the University of California San Diego and directed the California Space Institute. She founded Sally Ride Science in 2001, to encourage boys and girls to pursue STEM subjects. The program also had a particular focus on society’s perception of girls in math and science as well.
But, at the time of her flight in 1983, the focus of news coverage was almost entirely on Ride’s gender and what it could mean for women in science. Nevermind that the flight produced a number of firsts: Ride was the youngest American to travel to space; the flight marked the first re-flight of an astronaut on the space shuttle (Robert L. Crippen) and Challenger was the first shuttle to have a planned end of mission landing.
The following are a collection of reprints from the Washington Post’s coverage of Ride’s historic voyage, and reactions at the time.
Ride was also remembered on Twitter, with tweets from numerous sources, including the Smithsonian:
In-flight suit worn by Sally Ride in June 1983 when she became the 1st American woman in space. On exhibit @ instagr.am/p/NdwH9smHmS/— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) July 24, 2012
Actor LeVar Burton:
The commercial space exploration company SpaceX, which recently made spaceflight history:
Very sad news on the passing of Sally Ride. A true inspiration.— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 23, 2012
So sorry to hear of the loss of my friend and fellow astronaut Sally Ride. You will always be an inspiration for women and space.— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) July 24, 2012
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