Sally Ride was the kind of person about whom you’ll probably never see a negative word written. A physicist, astronaut, and pioneer, Ride gave space travel to women in the early 1980s, inspiring millions by the trails she blazed. And though she died last year of pancreatic cancer, her name will live on as long as this planet keeps turning. A little less than a month away from the 30th anniversary of Ride’s first space flight, NASA and President Obama made sure of that by holding a national tribute earlier this week called “Sally Ride: A Lifetime of Accomplishment, A Champion of Science Literacy,” which was held at the JFK Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.
“Sally Ride Science is thrilled to be presenting a National Tribute to Sally to honor her lifelong commitment to space exploration, but also to improving science education and to supporting science literacy for all students,” said co-founder and chair member of Sally Ride Science Tam O’Shaughnessy, who was also Ride’s life partner.
It wasn’t just a one-night celebration, either. Ride will posthumously be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest award presented to civilians — later this year, and a new NASA internship program will bear her name. The Sally Ride Internship is intended to help students from less-than-ideal backgrounds get a leg up in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by allowing them to work with practicing members of the scientific community around the country.
Beyond that, they’re renaming the International Space Station’s EarthKAM (Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) the Sally Ride EarthKAM. This is in tribute to Sally Ride Science, a program she founded that has led to hundreds of thousands of junior high kids gaining access to NASA’s images and using them in their classwork (such as this MoonKAM video).
“We remember Sally Ride not just as a national hero, but as a role model to generations of young women,” said President Obama. “Sally inspired us to reach for the stars, and she advocated for a greater focus on the science, technology, engineering and math that would help us get there. Sally showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve, and I look forward to welcoming her family to the White House as we celebrate her life and legacy.”
To that, I give our Prez the benefit of the doubt, but maybe next time don’t wait until things get posthumous to get liberal with the awards. Congratulations, Ms. Ride. You’ve deserved it for a while now.