How does one pay tribute to an icon like Sally Ride? America's first female astronaut has passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 61, a truly tragic loss. To sum up such a loss in words is a challenge (no pun intended). Every term that comes to mind seems trite and cliched. Trailblazer. Role Model. Hero. Legend. Pioneer. Our FIRST female astronaut, how epic is that?!
Because of Sally Ride, we can look at our daughters and say, without hesitation, "Of course you can go to space when you grow up." Because of Sally Ride, we can look in the mirror and say, "Of course I can be the first woman in my firm to make partner/become the CEO/get this research grant. Hell, Sally Ride went to space!"
I was a kid when Sally Ride flew on the Challenger shuttles in 1983 and 1984, and while I remember those historic moments, the whole "first female astronaut" thing didn't really hit home at the time.
Now, as a grown woman, I realize how much prejudice she must have come up against. Reporters asking asinine questions about "whether spaceflight would make her cry or affect her reproductive organs," for example. I'm impressed by her courage and tenacity on a completely different level now; most of all, I think, by her own response to the "first female astronaut" hype:
"It’s too bad this is such a big deal," she said. "It’s too bad our society isn’t further along."
Indeed. And it's too bad those words still hold true today. Although, thanks to Sally Ride, not as much as they once did.
Ride, Sally, ride!
What did Sally Ride mean to you?
Image via ABCNews