Pioneering Astronaut Sally Ride Dies
Passing reveals longtime relationship with partner.
Photo by: Tim Wilson
Astronaut and lesbian trailblazer Sally Ride died at the age of 61 on Monday after a 17-month bout with pancreatic cancer. She is survived by her partner of almost 30 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy, and commemorated by the staff of Sally Ride Science, the education company she founded in 2001.
Born in Los Angeles in 1951, Ride received her Masters in physics from Stanford University in 1975 and her Ph.D in 1978. That same year, NASA selected her as a candidate for spaceflight, having permitted women applicants for the first time the previous year. After nearly six years of training, Ride served as a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Challenger, becoming the first American woman in space in 1983. She served on one other spaceflight the following year.
Retiring from NASA in 1987, Ride was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1988. She taught at the California Space Institute at the University of California San Diego and devoted the rest of her professional life to education with a special focus on teaching kids about science, eventually culminating in Sally Ride Science.
Ride married astronaut Steven Hawley in 1982 but the two divorced five years later. Since 1985, Ride's partner has been Tam O'Shaughnessy, a psychology teacher and childhood friend. Ride never publicly acknowledged the relationship, preferring instead to safeguard the couple's privacy. Sally Ride Science listed O'Shaughnessy as Ride's partner in the announcement of her death—a reveal that surprised many, though it will now give inspired youth in the LGBT community another hero to look up to. It's a fitting conclusion to a life of adventure and education that Ride should give us one last surprise and one last lesson with her departure.