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Maria Zuber Statement Regarding the Passing of Sally Ride
23 Jul 2012
(Source: NASA)

Sally Ride
On June 18, 1983, a young physicist from California took her seat aboard the space shuttle and launched into history. On that date, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space as a mission specialist on STS-7. In this image Ride monitors control panels from the pilot's chair on the Flight Deck.
I knew Sally Ride. I feel very fortunate to make that statement. It is a statement that I am confident that can be made by many because Sally shared the best part of her - her love of science and education, with so very many.

Like most, I first met Sally via the media as she trained to become one of America's first females in space. When she flew STS-7, and became our first woman in space, I followed along and secretly wished I were her. But the reality is, no one could be Sally Ride but Sally Ride. I found that out when I had the opportunity to meet her.

It was about 10 years ago. Back then Sally had finished her NASA career and was starting up Sally Ride Science. We were both speaking at a science festival Sally's company put together to inspire young women to pursue a future in the sciences. It was Sally's name that got more than 1,000 girls there that day, but it was her boundless enthusiasm and passion for the unknown - and communicating how her young audience could play an important role in making those unknowns known, that held their attention.

We built a friendship that day. When I went on to become chief scientist on my own space mission, one of the first calls I made was to Sally, asking her if she and her team could bottle that focused, scientifically-driven fire and launch it aboard our twin lunar orbiters. Before she spoke I already knew the answer. It was the kind of challenge Sally loved.
When the GRAIL mission launched in September of last year, Sally's vision, called MoonKAM, flew with it. With MoonKAM, middle-school students could literally take charge of a camera aboard a NASA spacecraft and command it to take pictures of the lunar surface. By the time these students received their own pictures from 240,000 miles away, they received something even more valuable - a knowledge of the moon, space and an appreciation for our place in the cosmos

I am certainly sad for the loss of my friend. But what sadness I feel today is tempered by the pride that I have in knowing her, and learning from her. And when I think of that, and I consider the thousands upon thousands of others that Sally had personally touched and motivated through the decades, it makes me look to the future and wonder where the spirit of Sally Ride will show up next.

Maria Zuber

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Last Updated: 23 Jul 2012