Originally published on Savvy Auntie.
Sally Ride, 61, died peacefully on Monday, July 23, 2012 after her 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Her historic journey into space dazzled the nation, and she became a household name, a symbol, a hero inspiring all women and young girls to break barriers and be adventurous.
In January 1978, Sally Ride was selected to be an astronaut candidate by NASA. She was a mission specialist on STS-7, the flight that took her into space on June, 18, 1983. The day after Sally’s 1983 launch, Ms. Magazine’s editor at the time, Gloria Steinem, was quoted saying, “Millions of little girls are going to sit by their television sets and see they can be astronauts, heroes, explorers and scientists.”
Upon retirement, Sally continued to inspire generations of young girls to stay true to their interests and passions in science, to continue with their studies in order to achieve scientific literacy, and to pursue careers in science and engineering. Hoping to “make science and engineering cool again,” she founded Sally Ride Science in 2001 to create innovative classroom materials, classroom programs, and professional development training for instructors. An advocate for improving science education in the classroom, Sally co-wrote seven children’s science books: To Space and Back, Voyager, The Third Planet, The Mystery of Mars, Exploring Our Solar System, Mission Planet Earth, and Mission Save the Planet.
According to The New York Times, Sally Ride stated in 2003 that stereotypes continue to persist with regards to girls and math and science – that girls are less capable or interested in such subjects or would become unpopular if they chose to go into those fields. Sally believed that peer pressure was largely responsible for discouraging girls from studying the sciences, which prompted her to set up science programs that would appeal to young girls across the nation. She hoped that girls would be able to find the proper mentors and role models at science festivals, camps and clubs in order to counter the negative stereotypes.
President Barack Obama has released the following statement (ABC News):
Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Sally Ride. She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools. Sally’s life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sally’s family and friends.
Survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy, Sally had no children of her own but was a trailblazing astronaut aunt to her niece, Caitlin, and nephew, Whitney.
Photo: Courtesy of NASA