Wednesday, July 25, 2012

a fearless voyager worth remembering.

i liked her middle name,
among other things about her.

sally kristen ride,
the first american woman to fly in space,
the youngest person at the time to fly in space
&, posthumously,
the first openly gay/bisexual person to fly in space,
was a scientist & an adventurer from the beginning.

born on may 26, 1951, in encino, california,
sally grew up fascinated with science,
her favorite toys a chemistry set & a telescope.

she graduated high school & headed east
to swarthmore college in 1968,
but three semesters in, was too homesick to continue.
she went west again & enrolled at stanford as a junior.
an athlete since childhood, she became
the tennis team's #1 women's single player,
& was ranked nationally.

while teaching at a summer tennis camp,
sally was urged by tennis legend billie jean king
to quit college & pursue a tennis career.
sally didn't listen.

she earned her bachelor's degree in english in 1973,
her master's degree in physics in 1975
& her ph.d. in astrophysics in 1978.

while completing her doctorate, sally saw
an ad in the student newspaper:
nasa was seeking astronauts —
they especially wanted scientists & engineers,
& were allowing women to apply.

sally applied, along with 8,000 other applicants.
nasa selected 35, 6 of them women, 1 of them sally ride.

on june 18, 1983, 32yo sally flew her first mission
on the shuttle challenger, part of a five-member crew
who spent about six days out in space.
her second shuttle mission lasted about eight days.

sally was slated for another shuttle flight
when the challenger exploded, january 28, 1986.
the shuttle program was suspended, & sally retired.
42 other american women have followed her into space since.

sally returned to stanford, this time around as a science fellow
& eventually a professor of physics.
she also served as the director of the
california space institute at
the university of california san diego,
& wrote six science books for kids.

in 2001, she launched sally ride science,
an organization intended to inspire young people —
especially girls — to stick with science,
to become scientifically literate,
& to consider pursuing careers as scientists & engineers.

personally, sally was married to fellow astronaut
steven hawley from 1982 to 1987,
but spent the last 27 years of her life
with partner tam o'shaughnessy.

sally left behind tam —
along with her mother, sister, & a niece & nephew —
when she lost her 17-month fight against pancreatic cancer,
& died july 23rd at the age of 61.

sally ride science said of its founder:
sally lived her life to the fullest,
with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence,
passion, joy & love.
her integrity was absolute;
her spirit was immeasurable;
her approach to life was fearless.

president barack obama said of this trailblazer:
"she inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars
& later fought tirelessly to help them get there
by advocating for a greater focus on science & math in our schools.
her life showed us that
there are no limits to what we can achieve."

sally ride herself once said all she wanted to do was fly,
to soar into space, look out at the heavens & gaze back at earth.

i imagine she's doing just that right now.
ride, sally. ride.

image source: yahoo!news.

No comments: