In her incredible CNN article, professor of physics and astronomy Meg Urry reflects on Sally Ride’s 1983 journey to space on the STS-7. To be the first American woman in space is a huge accomplishment, and must have brought great honor to Ride while continually inspiring young women, particularly those working in scientific fields. Urry’s article exposes, however, that this 1983 trip was likely surrounded with great frustration and sexism; I imagine that the years leading up to the journey were not wholly positive ones for Sally Ride. The flight was twenty years overdue, a full two decades after an American man was sent to space. Despite the abundance of qualified, eager women and advanced technologies, the male-dominated space industry failed for far too long to launch women to space.
Urry writes about Ride’s later endeavor, Sally Ride Science, which runs camps and festivals to foster scientific literacy in middle school girls and sharpen skills in science teachers. Ride’s educational programming for girls is particularly significant to Urry, who was inspired by her great successes in the male-dominated world of physics, in which Urry recalls feeling like an outsider.
It’s widely known that Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, but not all know that she was involved with the camera on NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory satellite that now orbits the moon (the first NASA flight project dedicated wholly to education). It’s known that Ride spent 343 hours in space, but many don’t know about her relentless efforts to expand female opportunities in the world of science, while making our culture more accepting of and enthusiastic for female scientists. Read the words of OEP participant and scientist Meg Urry, and feel the impact that Sally Ride had on talented female scientists, itching for progress in a field where progress has, unfortunately, been slow.