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The Untold Truth Of Sally Ride

February 11, 2020


Sally Ride entered the history books on June
18th 1983 when, as part of the crew of Space Shuttle STS-7, she became the first American
woman in space. Ride has since been celebrated as a heroine
and a pioneer but she was more than just an impressive resume in a space suit. Funnily enough, Sally Ride very nearly never
became a NASA astronaut. As a young woman, she was a strong tennis
player and almost opted for sport instead of space. Ride started taking tennis lessons at age
10, and her coach was none other than Alice Marble, a pro with four U.S. Open wins and
two Wimbledon championships under her belt. Having received a scholarship to play tennis
at LA’s famed Westlake School for Girls in the late sixties, Ride was eventually ranked
18th among junior girl players in the United States and even received encouragement to
go pro from the legend Billie Jean King. When Ride left Southern California for Swarthmore
College in Pennsylvania, she didn’t stop playing. In fact, she won the Eastern Collegiate Tennis
Championships two years in a row, prompting her to return to the golden state to pursue
a career in professional tennis. But this wasn’t meant to be. In a 2006 interview, Ride explained that she
quit the sport because her forehand was weak but her mother thought it was because Ride,
a perfectionist, wasn’t always able to control her game. Either way, she eventually decided to go back
to school to study English and physics. Anyone who’s seen movies like Apollo 13, Hidden
Figures or First Man knows that NASA began as the very definition of a boys’ club. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration
became a thing in 1958, and it wasn’t until twenty years later that the first women were
officially admitted to the astronaut program. Sally Ride was part of that inaugural class. Ride and four other women were part of NASA’s
Astronaut Group 8, which also included three African-American men and the program’s first
Asian American. American women had previously been part of
the astronaut training program — but none of those women made it into space. “I mean, if we’re going to send a human being
into space we should send the most qualified. And in certain areas women have a lot to offer
in other areas men do and I think we ought to use both.” Ride’s class had more luck. Judith Resnik became the first Jewish-American
in space in August 1984, while Kathryn Sullivan became the first American woman to walk in
space in October of that same year. Anna Lee Fisher became the first mother in
space a month later. You know that cliche about not having to be
a rocket scientist to understand something? Well, Sally Ride actually was a rocket scientist. And an accomplished and decorated tennis player. And a general overachiever, who earned no
fewer than four degrees from Stanford University. Ride earned two bachelor’s degrees one in
English and one in physics as well as a masters and PhD in physics before being accepted into
the space program. That acceptance was no small feat, either:
Ride beat out thousands of other applicants for her place in the NASA class of 1978. Following her departure from NASA nine years
later, Ride went back to Stanford to teach and was such a celebrity there that the university
had to keep her name off her office door for fear she might be stalked by the public. Following her death, Stanford renamed a residence
hall in her honor. Sally Ride, famous and beloved as she was,
was largely successful at keeping the details of her personal life hidden from the public
eye. In 1982, she married fellow astronaut Steve
Hawley. The marriage lasted for five years, after
which Ride entered into a relationship with Tam O’Shaughnessy, a professional tennis player
and children’s science writer. Ride and O’Shaughnessy remained together until
Ride’s death in 2012. The fact that Ride was in a partnership with
a woman for most of her life shocked some friends and fans, many of whom learned of
Ride’s homosexuality for the first time when they read her obituary. Ride’s sister, Bear Ride, has told BuzzFeed
News that Ride wasn’t in the closet, per se she was simply very private. She even kept the fact that she was suffering
from pancreatic cancer from her family and friends for over a year. Bear has suggested that much of her sister’s
reticence about her sexuality can be chalked up to their Norwegian heritage, and to the
fact that Sally preferred to resist labels. On January 28th 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger
lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida on an uncharacteristically cold morning. The launch had been delayed for six days for
various reasons, including bad weather at the Transoceanic Abort Landing site in Senegal
and problems with the exterior access hatch. A long line of successful missions had made
NASA complacent, and, even though at least one engineer had raised concerns that the
Challenger should not be given the go-ahead, the launch went on as planned. Seventy-three seconds after lift-off, the
Challenger exploded in front of a shocked and horrified public audience. Sally Ride was the only active astronaut on
the committee that investigated the causes of the disaster, known as the Rogers Commission. Her biographer, Lynn Sherr, told the Los Angeles
Times that Ride’s decision to leave NASA in 1987 was almost certainly directly linked
to the Challenger tragedy and the dispiriting findings of the Rogers Commission. A member of Ride’s NASA class, Judith Resnik,
perished in the explosion, and Ride, one of the committee’s most outspoken members, was
not shy about asking the hard questions. In 2003, after the Columbia exploded, Ride
ended up on the investigative committee into that disaster as well. As the first American woman in space, Sally
Ride faced often ridiculous displays of sexism. She also faced a barrage of questions from
reporters, most of whom were men obviously puzzled by the sight of a female in a flight
suit. Some of the questions Ride had to answer in
NASA press conferences included, “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?”,
“Will you become a mother?” and even this. “How do you respond how do you take it as
a human being do you weep do you what do you do?” Ride met such insulting questions with characteristic
grace and poise. She said there was no evidence space flight
rearranged a woman’s reproductive organs. She wondered why reporters weren’t asking
her male counterparts whether or not they wept at work. And she smiled and refused to answer the third
question about her plans for motherhood. In an interview with Gloria Steinem, Ride
said it would have been easier if another woman had joined her on her first space flight
in 1983, and that the only negative experiences she had leading up to the launch and afterwards
were with the press. She has recalled biases at NASA, however. Not only did they ask her for help in designing
a makeup kit that would work in space; they also suggested a woman take 100 tampons with
her for a one-week mission, just in case she started her period while on the shuttle. “Why doesn’t anybody ask Rick those questions?” As a teenager, Sally Ride went to a girl’s
high school in Los Angeles that did very little to nurture an interest in science or math
in its students. Instead, the school focused on English and
sports. Ride, who told Gloria Steinem in a 1983 interview
that she suffered from the lack of science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses
at her school, made it her mission as a former astronaut to make sure that other young girls
didn’t struggle as she did to find their place in the world of science. With that goal in mind and in collaboration
with her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy and UC San Diego, Ride founded Sally Ride Science
in 2001. Sally Ride Science has trained more than 30,000
students and supplied six million students with STEM books and guidance about STEM careers. The organization has also changed the national
conversation about girls and science. Ride, along with O’Shaughnessy, even penned
five science books for children To Space and Back, Voyager, The Third Planet, Exploring
Our Solar System, and The Mystery of Mars. According to NASA, another one of Ride’s accomplishments
was the EarthKAM project, which allows middle school students to take pictures of Earth
from the International Space Station. During her life, Ride often told young people
to “reach for the stars.” She enabled countless kids to do just that. Sally Ride made history as the first American
woman in space. She was also the youngest American in space
and most likely the first gay American in space. As such, Ride’s fame was a foregone conclusion. It was not something she sought, however. Ride was a very private woman and her interactions
with the press prior to and after her two space missions were difficult for her. And in that way, she could not have been any
more different from many of her fellow male astronauts. Unlike them, she shied away from the spotlight,
even going so far as to request that NASA refuse calls to endorse any Sally Ride-themed
merchandise. Ride didn’t see herself as a role model or
a source of inspiration and she voiced dismay that American society was still so backward
that her work as an astronaut was seen as an out-of-the-norm achievement. In 1987, Ride left NASA to pursue a career
as a physics professor, first at Stanford and later at the University of California,
San Diego. The San Diego Tribune described Ride as a
“trail-blazing but down-to-earth” astronaut, quoting her life partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy,
as saying: “Sally is someone who did things because she
wanted to do them, not for any awards or statues.” Leading up to Sally Ride’s first mission in
space in June 1983, radio stations around America played Wilson Pickett’s recording
of “Mustang Sally” on repeat. The song, written in 1965 by R&B artist Mack
Rice, was a natural pick for DJs that summer because it includes the lyrics “ride, Sally,
ride,” and excited spectators serenaded Ride with the song as she climbed into the shuttle
with her four crewmates. But Sally Ride’s connection to American popular
culture doesn’t end there. In 2013, singer and star of Hidden Figures
Janelle Monae released a song named after Ride as part of her second album, The Electric
Lady. Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground also once
wrote a song called “Ride Sally Ride”, but that was apparently before he had ever heard
of the soon-to-be-famous astronaut. Still, though, it’s a pretty neat coincidence. When Sally Ride was accepted into the NASA
space program in 1978, the spacecraft were designed for use by men. And for the first 25 years of American space
flight, that had sufficed. Then Ride came along and changed everything. Prior to leaving NASA in 1987, Ride made sure
to leave her mark on space shuttle design and to do so in a way that would benefit the
female astronauts that came after her. She saw to it that engineers made the shuttle
seats adjustable to more easily accommodate a woman. And she asked that they add a curtain to the
restroom area and redesign the vacuum toilet. Adjustable seats, privacy curtains, and a
more comfortable toilet might seem like small potatoes when you’re faced with the enormous
vastness of space — and with the immense challenges that come with fighting inequality
in the workplace, but hey, one small step step can often mean a giant leap. And Ride took both. In her sixty-one years, Sally Ride fought
many battles. Her first fights were on the tennis court,
where, more often than not, she emerged victorious. Later, she fought for equal standing in America’s
space program. She won that battle, too, making history as
the first American woman in space. Still later, she worked hard to see to it
that young people interested in science had the tools and books and guidance they needed
to aid them in their studies. But her final battle was one she could not
win. In 2010, Ride was diagnosed with pancreatic
cancer. Seventeen months later, she died, having only
recently told her family and friends about her illness. President Barack Obama marked Ride’s passing
by saying that her life was proof that there are no limits to what humans can achieve. “Sally didn’t just break the stratospheric
glass ceiling, uh she blasted through it.” Four years prior to her death, in an interview
with CNN, Ride talked about how awe-inspiring it was to view Earth from the window of the
space shuttle. She said: “You can’t get it just standing on the ground,
with your feet firmly planted on Earth. You can only get it from space, and it’s just
remarkable how beautiful our planet is and how fragile it looks,” Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
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22 Comments

  • Reply Broken Lions February 10, 2020 at 7:00 pm

    Yes

  • Reply Thanus February 10, 2020 at 7:00 pm

    pee poo

  • Reply Faron Cox February 10, 2020 at 7:00 pm

    First

  • Reply Hayden H February 10, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    All lies, she is still alive.

  • Reply Kxylii February 10, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    No

  • Reply Eye Am Coa February 10, 2020 at 7:15 pm

    I just noticed those 3 🎾 balls in her throat WOW! DRAG ON! Oh and all them folks are alive DID NOT BLOW UP smfh

  • Reply Susan Simpson February 10, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    Huh? She died of pancreatic cancer??? I thought she blew up with the spaceship!!!???

  • Reply Major blitz February 10, 2020 at 7:25 pm

    I didn't know Mustang Sally was written about her. Ride Sally Ride…hehe

  • Reply David Dorton February 10, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    The Order of the Eastern Star.

  • Reply Daniel Gomez February 10, 2020 at 7:32 pm

    I think we should learn about the untold history of Christa McAuliffe.

    One of the Seven astronauts that died from the space shuttle Challenger explosion accident.

  • Reply Nima Sakura February 10, 2020 at 7:38 pm

    Wtf

  • Reply Grunge February 10, 2020 at 7:56 pm

    Would you go into space if given the opportunity?

  • Reply Peewhocantbeaimed February 10, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    Margeret Hamilton wrote the software for Apollo 11 and coined the term 'Software Engineering". Just a bit of Jeapordy for y'all

  • Reply xnyph February 10, 2020 at 8:28 pm

    https://youtu.be/OhlIR7a7iAI

  • Reply Chloe February 10, 2020 at 8:57 pm

    Wow, what an amazing and progressive life. I hope to at least achieve a fraction of what she did.

  • Reply Fife Bielby February 10, 2020 at 9:04 pm

    fun fact: the first mother in space was a woman

  • Reply colin crisp February 10, 2020 at 9:52 pm

    nasa lies

  • Reply CarmenMonoxide February 11, 2020 at 1:06 am

    But don't you understand, wymen have no rights in the USA at all. It favors men and ever since POTUS Trump took away those rights, little girls will have to know how much life is limited to us. It's the white man's fault for not recognizing our ability to do everything they can do. Such a scary time when you know that "Wyman of the Year" was won by a man, Cailyn Jenner in 2015. Men continue to break records in wymen's sports as wymen. Biology be damned!
    OMFG JUST STOP with this BS about women who've done extraordinary things as women. Typically making things to accommodate wymen. And don't get me started about Black history mouth…

  • Reply Zelda Williams February 11, 2020 at 1:52 am

    Mae C. Jemison: the first African American woman in space, engineer, physician, NASA astronaut. (Retired)
    RIP. Sally Ride rest in power, super-intelligent, a pioneer, woman, a real life space cowgirl💐 (anything you can do, I can do better!)🎵
    Ride Sally Ride! 🙂

  • Reply Johnny Guitar February 11, 2020 at 2:39 am

    Ride Sally Ride,,,, Sally Cant Dance

  • Reply mrdeeds72 February 11, 2020 at 3:09 am

    I actually learned a lot in this untold story. Thank you!

  • Reply laserus3333 February 11, 2020 at 6:09 am

    Nobody has gone to space.

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