Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space (and the youngest) will receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom this year. Ride died last year of cancer, at the age of 61.
Sally Ride was a 32 year-old physicist from California when she shot into outer space on 18 June 1983. She was the first woman astronaut in U.S. history. She went on a second flight in October of 1984.
She was scheduled to go on another mission, aboard the Challenger, but that craft exploded in 1986. Rider spent the rest of her career working for NASA, teaching, writing books and, in 2001, working at the head of Sally Ride Science, a foundation devoted to science education.
Last year she died of cancer, on 23 July 2012.
In her obituary, it was revealed that Ride had been in a 27 year-long relationship with another woman scientist, Tam O’Shaughnessy. Sally Ride’s sister, Bear Ride, has spoken out about her sister and about the inequities faced by gay couples.
So, Ride was the first American woman, the youngest American and, as far as we know, the first gay astronaut in our history.
Here’s an article about Sally and her sister, the “trailblazing sisters.”
Here’s the Who2 biography of Sally Ride.
And here’s journalist Miles O’Brien, talking a bit about the life of Sally Ride: