Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, the partner of the late Sally Ride, christened an $89 million research vessel named for the pioneering astronaut that will be operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“Scripps will be answering some of the most compelling problems of our time,” said O’Shaughnessy, noting that the R/V Sally Ride is a “very smart ship” with environmentally friendly features that means it is “not contributing to the kinds of problems Scripps is trying to solve.”

The christening at a shipyard in Anacortes, WA, drew the leaders of the Navy, UC San Diego, NOAA and NASA. Scripps released a video of the event on Thursday.

Ride made history in 1983 when she became the first American female astronaut to travel to space. In 1989, she joined the faculty of UC San Diego as a professor of physics and was director of the university’s California Space Institute. She died in July 2012 at the age of 61 of pancreatic cancer.

O’Shaughnessy’s proclamation that the naming of the ship for Ride was “a big damn deal” for women and especially for female scientists now and in the years to come was echoed by other speakers at the christening events.

“Every female scientist I know knows where they were when Sally Ride went into space. She broke the ultimate glass ceiling,” said Scripps Director Margaret Leinen.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was in the agency’s astronaut corps when Sally Ride flew aboard the Space Shuttle. He said that because of Ride’s legacy, girls in his grandchildren’s generation will “know that a career in science and engineering is just as much a possibility for them as for their male classmates.”

Substantial construction and outfitting of the 238-foot vessel with research instrumentation remains to be done. Scripps anticipates taking delivery of the vessel in mid-2015 and then spending at least six months field-testing it.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.