Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Statement on the Passing of Dr. Sally Ride

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - statement on the passing of Dr. Sally Ride:

"I was sad to hear the news of Dr. Ride's passing. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends. I don't know if folks today are aware of just how difficult it was for women to pursue careers in the service and particularly in aerospace and engineering, or just how remarkable it was for a woman to pursue a career as an astronaut, at the time that Dr. Ride did. She was a brave and courageous person, on Earth as well as in the heavens."

— Patrick Walsh, author, Spaceflight: A Historical Encyclopedia and Echoes Among the Stars, and creator of the documentary video series Five Minutes in Space (episode #6, "Sally Ride: Making Real The Promise," available at  http://youtu.be/k2cFtcDBC3o ).

Transcript, "Sally Ride: Making Real The Promise"
Five Minutes in Space Episode #6 (06/01/11) - Sally Ride: Making Real The Promise

by Patrick J. Walsh

In a lifetime of achievement, it is only the individual who can single out one moment as being more meaningful than any other...

But in a lifetime devoted to others, every person touched by one individual’s achievement can pinpoint any one of many moments that define the essence of what it means to be a hero...

On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first female American astronaut to fly in space.

Her flight made real the promise of space exploration for every future generation of American women, and was the first of a series of remarkable achievements by female astronauts.

More than two decades after the first American was launched into space, nearly fourteen years after American astronauts first landed on the Moon, two years after the first space shuttle launch, America’s first female astronaut to fly in space lifted off as a mission specialist during the STS-7 flight of the space shuttle Challenger.

Robert Crippen commanded Challenger for the historic flight; Frederick Hauck piloted the shuttle; and the crew also included mission specialists John Fabian and Norman Thagard.

The crew deployed two communications satellites, and made the first deployment of the Shuttle Pallet Satellite, a platform outfitted with television and film cameras that provided stunning views of the space shuttle in orbit.

The mission went smoothly from start to finish, and the crew safely returned to Earth at Edwards Air Force Base in California, after a flight of slightly more than six days.

As outstanding an achievement as it was for her to be chosen as America’s first female astronaut to fly in space, even a cursory glance at Sally Ride’s pre-flight resume would make it obvious that she indeed had the “right stuff” to join the astronaut corps.

Prior to her selection in January, 1978 as a member of NASA’s eighth group of astronaut candidates, Ride had pursued a remarkable academic career at Stanford University, where she would earn a doctorate in physics after completing two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree.

She would again fly in space during the STS-41G mission in October, 1984 -- a flight whose highlights included Kathryn Sullivan making the first-ever spacewalk by an American woman.

Ride was also scheduled to make a third space flight, but that mission was canceled in the wake of the January, 1986 accident that resulted in the loss of the space shuttle Challenger and its crew.

But while the suspension of flights following the accident would ultimately end her career as an active space explorer, it also marked the beginning of a new call to service, when she was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as a member of the commission that would investigate the Challenger accident.

In the years following the tragedy, Ride founded NASA’s Office of Exploration, and authored the influential report, “Leadership and America’s Future in Space,” which helped to shape the space agency’s long range strategic planning.

She left NASA in 1987, and subsequently became a professor of physics at the University of California, bringing a uniquely inspiring perspective to the task of educating future generations of scientists and engineers.

She has since continued to serve as an inspiration to others as president of Sally Ride Science, which creates educational materials for young students across the U.S., and she is also the author of several space-themed books for children -- many of whom, no doubt, will one day point to that moment in which they first became truly immersed in their studies, and trace its inspiration to the first American woman to fly in space.

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