Sally Ride was the third woman in space (the Soviets had sent up 2 previous to her: a textile worker in 1963 who was part of a propaganda ploy, and a kick-ass fighter pilot in 1982.) She managed to thrive in what was truly a boy’s club before her and her fellow female astronauts arrived at NASA.
She flew on the Shuttle twice, and was going to fly a third time on an upcoming mission aboard Challenger. When Challenger exploded, she was named to the Presidential commission investigating the accident. After his testimony, she publicly hugged Roger Boisjoly, the Morton-Thiokol whistleblower who exposed the design flaw with the O-ring that caused the explosion. He said later that this one act of kindness sustained him as he was vilified by the corporation and his peers.
Since 1985, she has been in a relationship with a childhood friend – also a PhD – Tam O’Shaughnessy. She and Sally have written a number of books for children concerning spaceflight (Sally’s PhD is in physics, Tam’s is in school psychology.) Tam was by Sally’s side throughout her fight with cancer, which she finally lost today.
Remember this great person who broke through a very senseless barrier and showed us just how laughable it had been in the first place.