NASA once asked astronaut and astrophysicist, Sally Ride if 100 tampons would be enough for one week in space... Seriously.
Sally Ride grew up in Los Angeles, CA. From a very young age she became infatuated with science. She went on to study physics at Stanford University, where she received a bachelor’s degree, masters degree, and a Ph.D in Physics. While finishing her Ph.D. in 1977, she saw an ad from NASA seeking highly qualified students to join their astronaut program. There were over 8,000 applicants but Ride was selected as one of the first six female astronauts ever. However, it was not all smooth sailing after that. At NASA she faced challenges because of her gender. Many of the former military test pilots were not open to the idea of working alongside women. After completing rigorous training she was assigned to her first shuttle mission, the STS-7 on the Challenger.
The media took special interest in Ride since she was about to become the first American woman to travel to space. They were concerned about whether or not “her emotions as woman” would effect her judgement in space and how it could effect her reproductive organs. Ride was not fond of this, as she was a fiercely private woman. For most of her life she hid the fact that she was a lesbian and being openly gay could have jeopardized her opportunity to take part in the mission. But, Ride did not entertain these concerns and on June 18, 1983 she became the first American woman in space. The mission was successful and afterwards she continued working with NASA and eventually returned to space.
Ride left NASA in 1987 but stayed involved in the field, teaching, writing books, and conducting research. In 2001 Ride and her partner Tam O’ Shaughnessy founded Sally Ride Science, an organization intended to encourage girls and women to explore the science field. “If we want scientists and engineers in the future, we should be cultivating the girls as much as the boys” Ride said. Her contributions to space aeronautics as well as women in science are immeasurable. For these contributions, she was inducted into the US Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2003.
After a short battle with pancreatic cancer, Ride passed away in 2012 at the age of 61. In total, Sally Ride spent over 343 hours of her life in space. For the fearlessly breaking barriers (sometimes literally) and for paving the way for future women in science… WE THANK YOU SALLY!
PS- The song Mustang Sally came before Sally Ride's fame, it is purely coincidental. Trust us, we googled it...
Image via NASA