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R.I.P. Sally Ride 
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PITA Bred
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Post R.I.P. Sally Ride
Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died today at 61, of pancreatic cancer. Bad way to go for anyone, much less a trailblazer and hero.

I was absolutely blind-sided by the note that she's survived by a partner of 27 years. Did you know?

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Mon Jul 23, 2012 1:58 pm
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Post Re: R.I.P. Sally Ride
Over on SFFNet a few people are donating to the highly-regarded Lustgarten Foundation in Dr. Ride's memory. The Lustgarten Foundation funds scientific research search for a cure for pancreatic cancer and provides material and support to victims and families. It's got one of the highest overall ratings of any charity on the Charity Navigator web site. I blogged about Ride, and the group donation, here:

http://www.ergosphere.net/science/space ... -1951-2012

I met Dr. Ride once at a "teach kids science" event of some sort in the late 1990s. She came across as extremely professional, not shy but a bit reserved. She was there to talk about space, science, and the need for a new generation of scientists and engineers to continue exploring space, and she stuck to that subject. I think that science -- not her sexuality -- was what interested her and what she wanted to talk about publicly.

I didn't know she was gay, although I wasn't shocked to find out. It just doesn't seem particularly important, except that I'm glad she wasn't alone all of those years.

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Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:26 am
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Post Re: R.I.P. Sally Ride
I'm just boggled that she managed to keep it private, in this day and e-snoop age. I checked about six online biographies and not a one mentioned her marital status (in the loosest sense). Not easy for a high-profile individual to keep such a thing off the public radar for almost thirty years.

As you say, unimportant in all other respects.


Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:20 pm
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Post Re: R.I.P. Sally Ride
I had no idea either. I am profoundly indifferent. Kudos to NASA for not making it an unnecessary obstacle.


Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:37 pm
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Post Re: R.I.P. Sally Ride
PeterScott wrote:
I had no idea either. I am profoundly indifferent. Kudos to NASA for not making it an unnecessary obstacle.


When she was an astronaut (missions in 1983 and 1984), she was married to a man. NASA would have had no reason to consider her sexual orientation.


Thu Jul 26, 2012 7:17 am
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Post Re: R.I.P. Sally Ride
What Bill said. She might not have known, or might have tried to be "normal" for a few years before realizing how useless that was. When I was a young adult lot of talented, smart, ambitious women still felt the need to put aside some parts of their personal lives so as not to interfere with professional lives. With some, it was marriage or children. With others.... :/

I don't think NASA would have looked the other way from an openly lesbian astronaut, not back then.

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Thu Jul 26, 2012 7:34 am
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Post Re: R.I.P. Sally Ride
Given that there have been over 300 selected to be NASA astronauts, and that Ride is the only one I've ever heard of as being "out", statistics would suggest that NASA isn't lily-white in "making it an unnecessary obstacle."

Some of this is a self-filtering situation, since so many astronauts came from the military.


Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:40 am
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Post Re: R.I.P. Sally Ride
Indeed. NASA's culture is heavily military, and most (not all) of the early decisionmakers at NASA were former military people. Sally Ride had no problems due to her sexual orientation because she kept quiet about it, not because NASA was particularly enlightened for that era. It presumably wasn't difficult for her to keep quiet because she was naturally prone to be a bit reserved about her personal life in public in any event.

It is no mistake that "ask not/tell not" was the military's idea of a solution to this issue in the 1990s. Just consider Heinlein's extreme sense of personal privacy and his tendency to think that it was normal for people to need to keep quiet about private issues to prevent problems from outraged idiots who presumed to judge the private lives of others. My grandfather was a lot like Heinlein in that respect. So were the few other career military men that I have known from their generation, and quite a number more from later years.

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Fri Jul 27, 2012 11:45 am
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Post Re: R.I.P. Sally Ride
I agree, and retract. When it comes to the astronaut corps, NASA does not knowingly push the social envelope.

Except when it comes to hiring nutjobs who try to kidnap their competition... whatever happened to her? They sure did a good job of keeping a lid on the fallout from that.


Fri Jul 27, 2012 2:25 pm
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Post Re: R.I.P. Sally Ride
Actually, I don't think that they did keep the lid on. At the time this was all playing out, I saw stories about all of the facts. It's just that, once the wild parts of the story were over, it was over.

Lisa Nowak obviously flipped her lid, which happens sometimes even with screened and highly trained people. William Oefelein had a couple of affairs, which happens sometimes ditto. Nowak took a plea deal after mental health treatment, and was then dismissed from NASA under "less than honorable conditions". Oefelein admitted to the affair, and was then dismissed from NASA and sent back to the Navy. Shortly thereafter, his Naval career having been well and truly screwed, he retired and moved to Alaska with the third woman in the "triangle", to whom he was engaged last anybody heard.

The facts are on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_Nowak
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Oefelein

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Tue Jul 31, 2012 9:23 am
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