I was so sorry to hear about the death of Sally Ride. Ride was the first American woman in space and I remember feeling a sense of possibility that day in 1983 when she took off on the Challenger.
She Changed the Face of Space Exploration and Science
I used to have an old, oversized book as a kid that was filled with pictures of the solar system. I'm not sure when it was published, because even then it was outdated, but to me it represented "science," in a nutshell, which is to say: old, slightly mysterious, and definitely male. I kept this impression even through high school, until 1983.
That was the year it was announced that Ride was one of the people, the first U.S. woman, that would board the Challenger spacecraft. I remember feeling so proud that day, as I have any time I have witnessed a woman make history in my lifetime. How thrilling it is to see for me to see women breaking barriers, setting records, and offering a possibility of what we can do.
If there was any question as to the danger Ride, and astronauts like her took on, it was underscored three years later in 1986, when Challenger broke apart upon launch, killing all seven members aboard the ship.
I think we all knew where we were when we heard about the Challenger tragedy. I was sitting in an entry-level job typing away when a coworker ran into the room and shouted, "It's gone! They're all gone!" Instantly, the danger that Ride faced as she became a pioneer was clear to me. I thought of her smile and the images of her working on the shuttle's arm, and felt a sense of amazement that she had made it back to earth safely.
She Inspired Us to Do Great Things
I feel so grateful for the women of this world who inspired me with great feats, memorable words, and amazing talent. I wonder how many young women like me Ride inspired to be better, do more, and push beyond the boundaries of what "girls could do." Her legacy in space represents the example that women can go anywhere and do anything.
Never underestimate how important it is for young girls to see women accomplish amazing things. As a girl, I was interested in poetry, painting, and writing. I wasn't a "science" girl at all, and yet, I've never been able to get Sally Ride out of my mind. Her accomplishment looms large for me, and has inspired me to banish my own preconceived limitations on what I can do. That is the power of her legacy.
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