Too often, one’s contributions to the world don’t get their just honor until it’s too late. Sally Ride, the first female U.S. astronaut in space, was posthumously honored on Wednesday with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to civilians. She was one of 16 individual honorees from a wide range of backgrounds, but she was the only one that went to space, so we’re pretty sure she had some of the best stories in the bunch whenever she was still around to tell them. Ride was 61 years old when she passed away last July due to pancreatic cancer, and she got a lot done during those years to help her earn this award, which has been given to over 500 people in the 50 years since President John F. Kennedy brought them into being.
Ride’s partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy, was on hand to accept the award on Ride’s behalf, and mother Joyce and sister Karen also attended the ceremony. “I think she belongs there, and I only wish that she had received the honor when she was still alive,” O’Shaughnessy told USA Today, saying that the astronaut was always more interested in getting things done rather than being applauded for her efforts. “But you know what? This is such a big honor. I think she would be quietly very pleased. You’d probably see this little grin on her face, that she thought it was a big deal, too.”