TheOUTfront is proud to celebrate Women’s History Month by recognizing Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. Although she never publicly came out, her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy disclosed their relationship after Sally’s death in 2012. As such, Sally Ride holds the distinction as the first lesbian in space and possibly the first LGBT person entirely.
Dr. Ride was not chosen by gender but for her knowledge and abilities as an astrophysicist, selected from a field of more than 1000 candidates for the space shuttle Challenger mission in 1983. The following year she made a second trip to space as “Mission Specialist” and was scheduled to make a third before the Challenger disaster in 1986. Instead, she served on the presidential commission that investigated the tragedy at NASA.
After retiring from NASA, Ride became the director of the California Space Institute at the University of California, San Diego, and a professor of physics at the school. She started “Sally Ride Science” to help inspire girls and young women to pursue interests in science and math, and with her partner, Tam co-authored seven children’s books.
She received the NASA Space Flight Medal; the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award; was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame; and the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Seventeen months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Sally Ride died on July 23, 2012, at age 61.
“You can’t be what you can’t see.” – Sally Ride