You have to admit one thing: she had the right name for her profession.
Seriously. When NASA announced that Dr. Sally Ride would become the first American woman in space, as well as the first woman to fly the Space Shuttle, who didn’t think of that Mack Rice / Wilson Pickett single, Mustang Sally?
“Ride, Sally, ride!” People sang that when the Space Shuttle Challenger went up, in June 1983, with her on board. I have to think that it was the closest that the Space Shuttle Program ever got to evoking the spirit of the Project Apollo years.
There are even a couple of Canadian connections. Dr. Ride’s main job during STS-7 (the official designation of her first mission) was the operation of the Canadarm for deploying two satellites. And as for her second mission, STS-41G in October 1984? That happened to be Marc Garneau’s first spaceflight. (Mr. Garneau’s tweet on Dr. Ride can be found here.)
After retiring from NASA, Dr. Ride stayed in the science field. One of the reasons she established the company Sally Ride Science was to get school kids interested in science careers, which is always a good thing.
Does it matter that Dr. Ride’s official obituary outed her as a lesbian? Not really. Dr. Ride’s public persona was geared towards inspiring kids to think about math and science skills; sexuality, for astronauts, was always going to be a subject best left to be handled by a different profession. What’s more, like Neil Armstrong, she put a priority on maintaining personal privacy. That might not have suited NASA publicists (who probably wanted to make more out of her novelty factor), but it also meant that everyone could focus more on her achievements, which is what’s really important.