What a Ride for Sally Ride – First American Woman to Fly in Space

Leslie Carol Botha: Sally Ride – an Iconic woman for many in the my generation – and hopefully for other girls who want to aspire to great heights! And as was the day, she was barraged with questions about her sex – before her first flight and the always luring question: ‘How would she deal with menstruation in space.’ Not sure we ever learned the answer to that one. A great woman whose time to pass came too soon.

Sally Ride | 1951-2012
American Woman Who Shattered Space Ceiling

The New York Times
By
Published: July 23, 2012

Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, died on Monday at her home in San Diego. She was 61.

Sally Ride communicating with ground controllers during the six-day space mission of the Challenger in 1983

Dr. Ride with fellow crew members at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida before an October 1984 flight aboard the Challenger.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, her company, Sally Ride Science, announced on its Web site.

Dr. Ride, a physicist who was accepted into the space program in 1978 after she answered a newspaper ad for astronauts, flew on the shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983, and on a second mission in 1984. At 32, she was also the youngest American in space.

She later became the only person to sit on both panels investigating the catastrophic shuttle accidents that killed all astronauts on board — the Challenger explosion in 1986 and the Columbia crash in 2003.

Dr. Ride was finishing studies at Stanford University — she had degrees in physics and astrophysics (and also English) — and looking for a job when she saw NASA’s advertisement. She looked at the qualifications and said, “I’m one of those people,” she told The New York Times in 1982.

She applied, and made the cut.

“The women’s movement had already paved the way, I think, for my coming,” she said.

By the time she began studying laser physics at Stanford, women had already broken through into the physics department, once a boys’ club. And when she applied to the space program, NASA had already made a commitment to admit women.

But there were still rough spots. Speaking to reporters before the first shuttle flight, Dr. Ride — chosen in part because she was known for keeping her cool under stress — politely endured a barrage of questions focused on her sex: Would spaceflight affect her reproductive organs? Did she plan to have children? Would she wear a bra or makeup in space? Did she cry on the job? How would she deal with menstruation in space?

The CBS News reporter Diane Sawyer asked her to demonstrate a newly installed privacy curtain around the shuttle’s toilet. On “The Tonight Show,” Johnny Carson joked that the shuttle flight would be delayed because Dr. Ride had to find a purse to match her shoes.

At a NASA news conference, Dr. Ride said: “It’s too bad this is such a big deal. It’s too bad our society isn’t further along.”

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.