October’s science woman is Sally Ride (1951-2012). While most people have heard of her, I think she is still worth mentioning because I learned things about her I didn’t know before!
Sally was the first American woman in space, after having earned a PhD in astrophysics and training to become an astronaut at NASA for five years. She became proof that gender wasn’t the reason someone would be rejected from the pool of applicants to the space program. She endured inane questioned about how her being a woman would impact her mission – Would she were a bra in zero-gravity? Would she cry over her mistakes? *eye roll* – She appeared unfazed by the remarkable opportunity she had, instead she stayed focused and driven.
After her tenure as an astronaut she served as a much needed voice of reason for NASA. She sat on a presidential commission charged with reviewing the Challenger disaster in 1986 and was responsible for gathering much of the information regarding NASA’s missteps that lead to the explosion.
Next she worked to create a list of recommendations for where NASA should go next. She concluded with four main missions: sending humans to Mars, exploring the solar system, creating a space station and a mission to Planet Earth. Sally was most passionate about this last mission. She argued that it was pivotal to understand Earth as a total system and study how man-made and natural shifts affect the environment. In a meeting of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Ride called this mission “the most challenging and exciting concept that this committee has seen in quite some time”.
Not only did Sally inspire many woman to see themselves as astronauts, she advocated that Earth is worth trying to protect.