Sally Ride: ‘Rare Person Who Made Us All Better’

Sally Ride
May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012

Like many girls growing up in the 80’s, for me, Sally Ride was a rock star. She was young – only 32 when she became the first American woman in space – and beautiful. Cool and smart during interviews, Sally had this ability, this grace really, to make questions about whether she would wear a bra in space or whether she cried on the job, just seem silly. The New York Times obituary recounts a NASA news conference, where Dr. Ride said: “It’s too bad this is such a big deal. It’s too bad our society isn’t further along.” Sally was further along . . . and she brought us all with her.

Credit: NASA

I was lucky enough to meet Sally and work with her wonderful and talented team at Sally Ride Science. It was then that I came to understand that she was a true Renaissance woman. A Stanford-trained physics whiz who also received a bachelor’s degree in English; an astronaut who nearly opted to become a professional athlete. During high school, Sally was the 18th-ranked girls junior tennis player in the U.S.; at Stanford she was the team's No. 1 women’s singles player and was nationally ranked. Billie Jean King wanted her to quit college and go pro. 

Sally Ride could have done anything, but she chose to devote her life to science and to inspire young people to pursue their passion. Sally certainly inspired me to follow my dream of being a scientist.  She made me better. In fact, she was one of those rare people who made us all better.

(Editor's Note: Climate Central and Sally Ride collaborated on a book—What You Need to Know: 20 Questions and Answers and About Climate Change—in 2009)

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