Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Ride, Sally Ride! March 18, 2011

Filed under: Cheroes,Children,Uncategorized — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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By Kathleen Guthrie

For years, whenever I heard Wilson Pickett sing “Ride Sally, ride” in the classic tune “Mustang Sally,” I thought he was singing “Ride, Sally Ride”—for astronaut Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. It still makes sense to me, although I now know the song was first released in 1965, and Sally made her historic flight two decades later.

While my contemporaries and I were playing dress-up in our mothers’ satin pumps and imagining glamorous exploits for Barbie and her chums, Sally was paving the way for a whole new universe of possibilities for girls. With a BA, BS, and a master’s degree in physics, she was a PhD candidate in astrophysics looking for new challenges when she responded to an ad in the newspaper. Over 8,000 people applied, only 35 were accepted, of which six were women. In 1978, Sally joined NASA’s space program.

Her giant leap for womankind occurred on June 18, 1983, aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. During the 6 days, 2 hours, 23 minutes, 59 seconds of Mission STS-7, Mission Specialist 2 Sally K. Ride and her four crewmembers deployed two satellites and conducted numerous experiments. They traveled 2.2 million miles and orbited Earth 97 times. Her favorite part was being weightless: “I could do 30 somersaults in a row and slither like a seal from one side of the cabin to the other,” she said. “And of course we couldn’t resist playing a little bit with our food!”

Sally is childfree, but she has spent the intervening years raising future astronauts. She has made it her mission here on Earth to show kids that science is cool. She has written several books on space aimed at kids and, in 2001, she founded Sally Ride Science, a company dedicated to encouraging and supporting boys’ and girls’ interests in science, math, and technology.

Maybe one day she’ll return to space. As it stands now, Sally took her second and final space ride in 1984. Guess what was played as her morning wake-up song?

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s finding inspiration in the stories of many of our “cheroes” (heroes who are childfree) as we celebrate National Women’s History Month.

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2 Responses to “Ride, Sally Ride!”

  1. Mali Says:

    I was at university when she went into space. !983 was an exciting time to be a young woman in a western country – the possibilities seemed so endless, and she helped create that atmosphere. I want to know more about her now – I’d forgotten completely, so thanks for reminding me.

  2. […] battle with pancreatic cancer. You can read Kathleen’s National Women’s History Month profile of Sally from March 2011. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this.   Leave a […]


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