Sally Ride

 

Sally Kristen Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012) was an American astronaut, physicist, and engineer. Born in Los Angeles, she joined NASA in 1978 and became the first American woman in space in 1983. Ride was the third woman in space overall, after USSR cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova (1963) and Svetlana Savitskaya (1982). Ride remains the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space, having done so at the age of 32. After flying twice on the Orbiter Challenger, she left NASA in 1987. She worked for two years at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Arms Control, then at the University of California, San Diego as a professor of physics, primarily researching nonlinear optics and Thomson scattering. She served on the committees that investigated the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, the only person to participate in both. Ride died of pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012.
According to Roger Boisjoly, who was the engineer that warned of the technical problems that led to the Challenger disaster, after the entire workforce of Morton-Thiokol shunned him Ride was the only public figure to show support for him when he went public with his pre-disaster warnings. Sally Ride hugged him publicly to show her support for his efforts.
After Ride's death, her obituary revealed that her partner of 27 years was Tam O'Shaughnessy, a professor emerita of school psychology at San Diego State University and childhood friend, who met her when both were aspiring tennis players. O'Shaughnessy was also a science writer and, later, the co-founder of Sally Ride Science. O'Shaughnessy now serves as the Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Board of Sally Ride Science. They wrote six acclaimed children's science books together. Their relationship was revealed by the company and confirmed by her sister, who said she chose to keep her personal life private, including her sickness and treatments. She is the first known LGBT astronaut.
Ride directed public outreach and educational programs for NASA's GRAIL mission, which sent twin satellites to map the moon's gravity. On December 17, 2012, the two GRAIL probes, Ebb and Flow, were directed to complete their mission by crashing on an unnamed lunar mountain near the crater Goldschmidt. NASA announced that it was naming the landing site in honor of Sally Ride. Also in December 2012, the Space Foundation bestowed upon Ride its highest honor, the General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award.
On May 20, 2013, a "National Tribute to Sally Ride" was held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and on that same day, President Barack Obama announced that Ride would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. The medal was presented to her life partner Tam O'Shaughnessy in a ceremony at the White House on November 20, 2013. In July 2013, Flying magazine ranked Ride at number 50 on their list of the "51 Heroes of Aviation".