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Sally Ride, first American woman in space, has died at 61 (sallyridescience.com)
199 points by splat on July 23, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments

First lesbian in space, apparently.


Unfortunate she felt she had to keep it to herself her whole life.

At the time she was applying, it might have disqualified her, security clearances weren't given since it was felt gays were exposed to blackmail. Plus Reagan era officials might not have viewed it as great PR.

[edit] Also a shame her partner of 27 years doesn't get the privileges of a spouse.

Its so fucking hilarious and sad that "gays were exposed to blackmail" thus not given clearance when the highest positions in many intelligence agencies are held by gays.

Hoover, (hitlers SS lead - failing on name), and many others... not to mention the latest cabal in the US agencies who i will not name at this time.

This world is so fucking broken.

>(hitlers SS lead - failing on name)

Did you mean Ernst Röhm? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_R%C3%B6hm) He wasn't SS, he was part of Sturmabteilung.

maybe the highest positions in intelligence agencies should be held by good liars, not social activists...

Turing too.

Also possibly a shame that her husband had to endure a divorce, though a big caveat that at the time she may not have admitted her orientation even to herself, and/or they may have divorced for unrelated reasons.

Divorce is always a shame, but ... don't be so quick to blame the divorce on her "orientation". Not all people are attracted exclusively to one gender. All we know about Sally Ride is that "Sally didn't use labels. Sally had a very fundamental sense of privacy" http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/first-female-us-astrona...

We know that she had a male parter. We know she had a female partner. We don't know why the first partnership failed. And we don't really need to.

Would they only deny you a security clearance if your sexual orientation was a secret? It seems like it would be hard to blackmail someone who was publicly gay.

NOTE: I am not saying any of the following are good reasons. Just relaying reasons I've read about before as to why being gay was such a red flag, even if you were out.

1. One concern could be that even if you are out, you might have partners who are not. The threat of outing those partners might be used to gain some leverage over you.

2. Gay relationships were frowned upon by society. There was none of the societal support that encourages and aides straight people in forming monogamous couples and settle down. The only option for gays who did not want to remain celibate in many cases was to resort to picking up strangers in sex clubs, or dealing with hustlers. That's not the kind of thing that security people like to see, regardless of whether you are straight or gay.

On your #2: quite.

The kids here especially may not appreciate how far gay acceptance has come even in just the past 20 years. The progress from the Stonewall Riots (1969, NY City) to today is pretty staggering.

I completely agree that the progress over the last few decades has accelerated dramatically. Unfortunately the number of suicides we still see in the GLBT community, especially among teens, shows that we still have a long way to go. --Mind you I'm primarily talking about the US, here... The situation in many middle eastern and African countries shows just how far the world as a whole still needs to come.

At the time she likely got her clearance, it would've been a ding.

Even weirder is why she would need a security clearance.

I hate to break it to you - but the Rooskies already know about space !

At the time she was flying on the Shuttle, the USAF was involved in the overall project and it was being used to lift military payloads into orbit, including some classified ones. The USAF stopped using the Shuttle after the Challenger accident.

Certain things like inertial guidance systems were (and probably still are) highly classified for a good reason: ours were great, and theirs sucked.

And how much did she know about them?

The design of the fan blades of the Rolls Royce jet engines on an A380 are a closely guarded secret and yet we allow people to fly on it without a security clearance - even people from Seattle, even Boeing employees (although they do have to sit outside!)

One of the real problems with the Shuttle is/was the cold war paranoia of Nasa. I worked on Hubble and 20years afterwards I still (as a Brit citizen) wasn't allowed inside JPL for an anniversary celebration

> And how much did she know about them?

Possibly quite a bit. Astronauts aboard the Apollo 13 had to make various repairs to different subsystems, so I would not be surprised if later Astronauts received fairly detailed information about how the entire system worked as part of their training, 'just in case'. At which point, you really don't want to have to worry about which pieces of information are safe and which are classified, or who is allowed to talk to who about what. Much easier and safer to just ensure you can give away as much info as possible to everyone involved.

Ride on, Sally Ride.

As usual, an apropos xkcd reference, though this was a blog post, and concerned the surviving Apollo astronauts: http://blog.xkcd.com/2012/07/12/a-morbid-python-script/

Your comment "Ride on, Sally Ride", when I read of her death, I actually ended up with Mustang Sally in my head.

Thanks for the XKCD link.

61 is far too young. Thank you for the inspiration Sally Ride.

A tragedy, and I wonder if being in space had anything to do with the development of her cancer. Astronauts must be bombarded by levels of radiation that people on Earth are not exposed to on a daily basis.

Here's a good PDF about space radiation: htttp://spaceflight.nasa.gov/spacenews/factsheets/pdfs/radiation.pdf

Sounds like they get blasted pretty hard, with the equivalent of several hundred chest X-rays over a 6-month tour.

A shuttle mission is at most 3-4 mSv/day, and depends on orbit. ISS is about 80 per 180 day mission. A whole-body CT is 10-12 mSv. Non-trivial, but not huge.

I suppose NASA has been keeping stats; I wonder what they look like.

Statistically unconvincing ?

Another one to pancreatic cancer...


I lost a friend to pancreatic cancer earlier this year. One of the best programmers I ever met. He was diagnosed in late December and died in mid-March.

This stuff sucks.

> [...] a long journey that started in 1977 when the Ph.D. candidate answered an ad seeking astronauts for NASA missions.

Somehow that just blows my mind, become an astronaut simply by responding to an ad in a student newspaper. Oh, the early days of space travel... :)

Blue skies, Miss Ride.

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