October is LGBT History Month and this week we will be featuring LGBT Icon Sally Ride, the first lesbian astronaut…
(May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012)
Sally Ride was born and raised in Los Angeles. She was a graduate of the Harvard-Westlake School and Stanford University, where she earned a double bachelor’s degree in English and physics, and went on to earn a master’s and doctorate in physics.
Her interest in the space program started when she read the student newspaper at Stanford and applied for a job opening, becoming one of 8,000 people to express interest from Stanford alone. In 1978, at the age of 27, she was selected to join the team at NASA. She worked as a ground-to-space coordinator for two space shuttle missions before being selected to go up in space herself for the seventh mission (and the second for Challenger) in 1983. Despite being asked sexist questions about her emotions and temperament, with the assumption that these would negatively impact her job performance, she was sent in space on June 18, 1983, and she became the first American woman to go into space. Ride was in space for six days and upon her return to Earth, she was treated as a hero by many American women.
Ride would go into space once more, also on the Challenger, in 1984. She retired from NASA in 1987 and went to work for the Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms Control. She became director of the California Space Institute in 1989 and started work as a professor at the University of California, San Diego at the same time. She continued to work closely with NASA and was the CEO of Sally Ride Science, a learning company which creates engaging science education programs for pre-teen and teenage girls.
In early 2011, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and after a seventeen-month battle, she died in July of 2012. Upon her death, her obituary revealed that she was a lesbian and in a committed relationship for 27 years (she had been married to a man in the 1980s but divorced him). Her partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, a professor of psychology, now serves as chairwoman of Sally Ride Science. Sally Ride’s legacy ends with the public finally allowed to know the fact that she was the first lesbian astronaut.