She set sail as a US Navy research vessel, was released as a postage stamp, appeared on the back of a coin, and stood tall as a monument. Now, America's first woman in space is scheduled to return to Earth orbit as the namesake of a cargo ship heading for the International Space Station.
The S.S. Sally Ride is the name given to Northrop Grumman's 19th (NG-18) Cygnus resupply spacecraft.
In a video posted to Northrop Grumman's social media channels on Monday (Oct. 3), Kathy Warden, chair, chief executive officer, and president, said, "Today we recognize and celebrate the contributions of a true pioneer of spaceflight by naming our next Cygnus spacecraft after Dr. Sally Ride." She was a staunch supporter of diversity and equality in science, motivating other women, including myself, to pursue STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] jobs.
Ride was one of the first six women chosen by NASA in 1978 to become an astronaut, and she went into space on June 18, 1983, as part of the shuttle Challenger's STS-7 crew. A year later, she returned aboard Challenger as an STS-41G mission specialist, increasing her total time in space to slightly over two weeks. Ride also established ground records. Ride, a nationally recognized young tennis player, was the first woman to serve in mission control as a CapCom, or capsule communicator. She continued to serve the US space program after leaving the astronaut corps, becoming the sole member of both investigative boards that followed NASA's two shuttle accidents. Ride also served on a commission in 2009 that helped determine NASA's current spaceflight programs.
Ride and her life partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy, co-founded Sally Ride Science in 2001, with the goal of encouraging young females to pursue professions in science and engineering. Ride passed away in 2012, at the age of 61.
Warden stated that her influence is still felt today. She set the path for future generations to explore and push the frontiers of spaceflight. We are thrilled to dedicate our newest Cygnus spacecraft to this extraordinary woman.
In the years since her death, Ride has been honored by the naming of the US Navy's R/V Sally Ride; her likeness has appeared on a US postage stamp and a US quarter dollar coin; and she has been memorialized with a life-size bronze and gold statue outside of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Long Island, New York. She has also received a Barbie doll, a Little People figure, and a LEGO Minifigure, and she was the inspiration for the name of the spot where two NASA probes collided with the moon in 2012. The S.S. Sally Ride is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on Nov. 6 aboard a Northrop Grumman Antares 230+ rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Virginia's Wallops Island. The spacecraft will carry more than 8,200 pounds (3,700 kg) of goods to the Expedition 68 crew on the International Space Station. After completing its mission, the S.S. Sally Ride will make a catastrophic reentry into Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
The S.S. Sally Ride is just the third Cygnus to have a female name. Northrop Grumman has a long practice of naming its spacecraft after people who have made significant contributions to human spaceflight. Former company executive J.R. Thompson, US Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory candidate Robert Lawrence, NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, and NASA astronauts David Low, Gordon Fullerton, Janice Voss, Deke Slayton, Rick Husband, Alan Poindexter, John Glenn, Gene Cernan, John Young, Roger Chaffee, Alan Bean, Kalpana Chawla, and Ellison Onizuka are among previous namesakes. The most recent Cygnus, launched in February and deorbited in June, was named after a British-American climate scientist who launched on three trips to the space station.