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The First Woman in Space, Sally Ride, Left a Giant Footprint for Womankind

On today’s Sport’s Spin the news broke late in the show, about the death of Sally Ride. I couldn’t help but recall my time talking to her about her achievements as a woman, but also as an astronaut. It wasn’t so much sports-related, but within the race to space, was a race between gender and equality.

Buzz Aldrin watched down as Neil Armstong took his last step off the ladder and onto the surface of the moon. Uttering what would become one of the most famous quotes in American history, “One small step for MAN, one giant leap for MANkind.” It was July 21, 1969.

Fast-foward to June 18, 1983 when 32-year-old, Sally Ride, not only became the first female in space, but also the youngest American. She was on the second flight of the Challenger as a mission specialist. But before she could takeoff, she ignored the pestering media questioning her ability to take flight as a woman. Would it affect her ability to have children? Would she take makeup with her? How would she deal with her menstrual cycle in space? Despite the critics and underlying misogynistic blasts — Sally pioneered her way joining the men in an era deemed the race to space.

A Stanford graduate, a math, science and technology buff, Ride made a significant impact on the NASA program and more importantly influenced young women to also pursue careers as astronauts.

When I was a reporter at KVII in Amarillo, I had the privledge to attend Ride’s banquet at West Texas A&M, which was in honor of International Women’s Day. She talked about her company, Sally Ride Science, which motivates young girls to pursue careers in science, math and technology — areas, she said, not enough women pursue.

In 2008, I asked Ride her reasons for creating Sally Ride Science.

“It became really clear that were not producing enough scientists, not enough of them are women out there who have this real interest in science. So we’re starting to lose them somewhere along the way,” Ride said.

Ride has also authored several children’s books all focusing on science.

While she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer at age 61, I noticed that Ride died the day before female pilot-pioneer, Amelia Airhart, would have celebrated her 115th birthday. Two trailblazing women above us, this time with wings.

So while Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins all remain walking on this Earth, Sally Ride will be closer to space then any of them can imagine. So Ride, Sally Ride.

 

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