Simon Kregar Acrylic on Canvas 2015
Happy Birthday to one of the greatest woman in American history, Sally Ride. She became the first American woman in space in 1983 on the space shuttle Challenger. She also continues to hold the record for youngest person in space at the age of 32. Sort of makes you feel a bit like a slacker, doesn’t it?
If you think that makes your feel like a slacker, being an astronaut is just one of the great accomplishments of Sally Ride. She was a pioneer in STEM education long before “STEM” was even a thing. She co-wrote multiple books and even tried her hand at a bit of acting in an episode of Touched by an Angel.
NASA began accepting and actively seeking female candidates in 1978. Sally Ride was one of six in that first class. Every one of them made it into space, including Judith Resnik, who died on what would have been her second trip during the Challenger explosion.
As part of the Challenger crew in 1983 and 1984, Sally Ride was the first woman to use a robot arm in space to retrieve a satellite. There is a super cool Google Doodle animation that shows a representation. Check it out here: Sally Ride.
She was eight months into her training for her third mission aboard Challenger when the shuttle exploded. Following the accident she was part of the presidential commission that investigated the accident. She is also generally considered the only person to stand behind engineer Roger Boijoly, the engineer who warned of an imminent disaster due to faulty 0-rings before the shuttle launch. She was also part of the commission after the Columbia explosion.
But her real contributions began after she retired from NASA. Starting in the 1990s she was actively involved in encouraging young girls and women to pursue careers in science fields, particularly space. In addition to her books for kids and young adults, she also worked with NASA to start the KidStat program, now called the Sally Ride EarthKAM, which stands for Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students.
EarthKAM encourages students to actively participate in NASA missions. Originally designed for shuttle missions, the project has been picked up by the International Space Station. It allows students to direct the camera on the ISS and take photos. See lots of cool images and learn more here: EarthKAM.
In 2001 she co-founded Sally Ride Science, a non-profit designed to inspire young people, especially girls, in science, technology, engineering and math. They offer summer camps, classes, and tons of resources for students and teachers. You can take advantage of those resource on the this website: Sally Ride Science.
Simon Kregar is also actively involved in STEM education. Primarily a space artist, he belongs to a genre of artists called Neuroesthetics. Essentially, they use neuroscience to explain why we like what we do when it comes to artwork. It’s really quite fascinating.
What I love about this painting is her skin tone. If you look closely you can see five, six, ten different colors mixed perfectly to create the highlights and shadows. He also does a great job at capturing Sally Ride’s amazing smile not just in her mouth but also in her eyes. And I absolutely love how well he represents the light and reflection on her microphone. It’s perfect, just like a photograph. Check out more of his awesome space art here: Simon Kregar
Today, Sally Ride would have been 65 years old. She died in 2012 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Today we celebrate the life of not just an astronaut, but a pioneer in education for girls, especially in STEM fields. Happy Birthday, Sally. You are truly what stars are made of.
As a side note, in the 1960s there was a group of women training for space, going through the same rigorous training as the men. However, they were not officially part of NASA and by a violation of their civil rights were not allowed to proceed with their training. (Look for a post on Lovelace’s Women in Space Program sometime in the future.)