On June 18, 1983, the space shuttle Challenger was launched into space on its second mission. Onboard the shuttle was Dr. Sally K. Ride, who became the first American woman in space. To celebrate this milestone, here are 5 amazing facts you might not know about Sally Ride.
She Was a Passenger On The Challenger Twice
Ride made two space flights onboard the Challenger space shuttle, and she was eight months into her training program for a third flight aboard the shuttle when it exploded in 1986. Ride found out about the accident while flying on an airplane when the pilot revealed the news. After hearing the announcement, she got out her NASA badge and went to the cockpit to listen to radio reports on the catastrophe. Four of the Challenger crew members who perished were in Ride's astronaut training class.
She Was The First Openly LGBTQ Astronaut In life, Sally Ride became famous as America's first woman in space — and in death, she added to her fame as the first acknowledged gay astronaut. While Ride's marriage to fellow astronaut Steve Hawley was well-known, it wasn't until her death that her long-term romance with Tam O'Shaughnessy was made public. Sally first met Tam O’Shaughnessy when they were preteens playing on the junior tennis circuit in Southern California. The revelation was revealed in an obituary that referred to Tam O'Shaughnessy as her "partner of 27 years" before Sally’s death from pancreatic cancer in 2012.
She Played Tennis Against Billie Jean King While attending Stanford, Sally taught tennis at a summer camp in Lake Tahoe. Billie Jean King, a tennis champion, came to the camp in 1972 and played an exhibition doubles match against Sally. King told Sally that if she worked hard, she could make it as a professional tennis player. But Sally had already made up her mind about pursuing a career in physics.
She Worked On The Space Shuttle Investigations On January 28, 1986, Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff, killing all seven crew members. As a member of the presidential commission investigating the disaster, Sally helped bring to light the fact that NASA management knew the shuttle’s O-rings could fail in cold temperatures. Then, when shuttle Columbia broke up on re-entry in 2003, Sally again was named to the investigative panel, becoming the only person to serve on the commissions investigating both space shuttle tragedies.
She Received The Nation’s Highest Civilian Honor
In 2013, President Obama honored Sally posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he presented to her partner Tam O'Shaughnessy. "As the first American woman in space, Sally did not just break the stratospheric glass ceiling, she blasted through it," Obama said. "And when she came back to Earth, she devoted her life to helping girls excel in fields like math, science, and engineering."