Sally Ride, who became the first American woman in space in 1983 and taught at UC San Diego after leaving NASA, will be posthumously honored Wednesday by the U.S. Postal Service, which will hold a ceremony at the university to unveil a stamp depicting the Encino-born physicist, astronaut and educator.
The first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the stamp, which will begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday at UCSD’s Price Center, will be free and open to the public.
Ride, who was 61 when she died of pancreatic cancer in La Jolla in July 2012, was a professor of physics at the university, which also is home to Sally Ride Science @ UC San Diego, a nonprofit organization she co-founded to inspire young people to pursue careers in science, engineering, technology and math and to promote STEM literacy.
“Sally Ride’s history-making journey has made it easier for young girls to dream of one day being an astronaut, an engineer, a physicist or a mathematician,” said USPS Chief Information Officer and Executive Vice President Kristin Seaver. “Today, girls don’t just dream. Because of trailblazers like Sally Ride, they have been empowered to do.”
Seaver is scheduled to attend the ceremony, along with UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla; Ellen Ocha, the first Hispanic woman in space; tennis champion Billie Jean King; and Tam O’Shaughnessy, Ride’s partner of 27 years and co-founder and CEO of Sally Ride Science.
“Sally started collecting stamps when she was a girl, and she continued to do so her whole life — especially stamps of the Olympics and space exploration,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Sally would be deeply honored to have her portrait on a U.S. stamp.”
Becky Petitt, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion at UC San Diego, will serve as master of ceremonies for the unveiling of the Forever stamp, which features a portrait of Ride painted by artist Paul Salmon of Virginia.
She is depicted in a light blue space suit, as she appeared around the time of her historic flight aboard Challenger, with a space shuttle lifting off in the background.
After earning a doctorate in physics from Stanford University, Ride joined NASA’s 1978 class of astronaut candidates for the agency’s new space shuttle program. She was the first woman to serve as a capsule communicator for Columbia’s second flight in 1981, communicating from the ground with both the shuttle crew in space and the flight director at Mission Control.
On June 18, 1983, Ride launched through Earth’s atmosphere aboard the space shuttle Challenger. For six days, she worked closely with her four male crewmates, proving to the world that women astronauts were as adept as men.
She completed a second successful trip to space the next year, breaking another barrier as a member of the first flight crew with two women.
Ride was the only person to sit on the investigative panels for both the Challenger and Columbia accidents. In the classroom, she used her experiences in space to explain complicated physics concepts to her students. She also co-authored six children’s books about science with O’Shaughnessy.
In 2001, Ride and O’Shaughnessy, a former professor at San Diego State University, joined three friends to start the science education company, Sally Ride Science, with the goal of narrowing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math.
In 2013, then-President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Ride the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Ochoa said she admired Ride for her “intellect that she applied as a scientist, her focus and passion for STEM education and her astounding competence in so many areas, including her critical contributions to NASA and the nation.”
“As much in demand as she was, she always made time to meet with young women who dreamed of becoming astronauts,” Ochoa said. “I am thrilled to be part of the Sally Ride Forever stamp dedication, continuing her legacy of inspiring people across the country, and indeed around the world.”
— City News Service