Space enthusiasts world-wide have been shocked and saddened by the death of NASA astronaut Sally Ride after a prolonged struggle with cancer.Dr Ride, a physicist, was recruited by NASA in 1978 in its Astronaut Group 8 (the first such group with female astronauts) and flew her first flight on the seventh Shuttle mission (STS-7) in 1983.She was thus celebrated as the first American woman in space and demonstrated that the US space program was moving on from its “Right Stuff” roots.Sally Ride flew again on the STS-41-G mission and was training for a third flight when the entire Shuttle fleet was grounded following the Challenger disaster.
Subsequently, Dr Ride left NASA for a career in academia, but at NASA’s request served in the teams investigating the losses of Challenger and Columbia. She also authored a hefty blueprint for future space exploration entitled Leadership and America’s Future in Space. Sadly this document was not as influential as it ought to have been.
Smart, dedicated and courageous, Sally Ride was a wonderful role model and promoted science education both by authoring books for children and publishing educational materials and running summer camps through her company Sally Ride Science. I wonder how many youngsters were inspired to scientific engineering careers by Ride’s example.
Astronaut, scientist and teacher, Sally Ride (1951-2012) was one of those people who made a difference.She will be missed.