Sally Ride was not just the first American woman in space, but also the youngest American to go to space, and she was the first acknowledged gay astronaut. Known famously for her first mission into space where she was an engineering specialist, deploying multiple satellites, operated the mechanical arm of the shuttle and conducted experiments in 1983 aboard the Challenger STS-7. During her second mission, Ride once again served as an engineering specialist the October of the same year aboard the STS_41G. During her 8 days of stay in space, she conducted many scientific observations of the planet Earth. Although she was scheduled to take her third trip to space, it was cancelled after the devastating Challenger accident of 1986. After the accident, Ride was a part of the investigation of the accident.
In 2001, Ride served as President and CEO of the company she created as a way to teach and inspire young girls and women to follow their interest in science and math. Her educational program aimed to encourage female youth through courses and educational products which have continued to grow to this day.
Although Ride was rather quiet about her personal life, closer to the end of her life she was more open about her relationship with Tam O’Shaughnessy and their business relationship. It wasn’t until after she died in 2012 that O’Shaughnessy opened up about their 27-year relationship, explaining that it stemmed from a childhood friendship that eventually turned in to love.
Sally Ride will be remembered as the first acknowledged gay astronaut and for all her contributions to the American Space Program. She will also be remembered for her contributions to her education program created to inspire young women to take interest and excel in science and math.
Every Friday this month, we will feature different LGBTQ2+ individual’s contributions to the fight for social justice. If you are interested in learning more about the LGBTQ2+ rights movement or how to support the community, check out these resources: