Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The Search for Intelligent Life in Outer Space and Within the Republican Party

Lynn Sherr. Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space. New York:Simon and Shuster, 2014.

This is an excellent insightful look into the life of Sally Ride. The following are notes from the book that should be of use to Public Administration and American History students:

It was suggested by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Director James Webb in 1962 that women should be allowed to be considered for becoming astronauts. Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who headed NASA, replied with “Let’s stop this now!”

In 1964, 1% of those with high paying jobs at NASA at the GS- 12 or higher levels were female.

In 1967, NASA sought non-pilot scientists without specifying gender.

The Soviet Union made Valentina Tereshkova he first female (and sixth) cosmonaut. She orbited the Earth 48 times in three days.

Passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act in 1972 made employment discrimination according to gender illegal. Government agencies were included in those required to abide by this new law.

President Nixon rejected a proposal for a NASA flight to Mars.

In 1976, NASA encourage women to apply to become astronauts. Nichelle Nicholas, who portrayed Lt. Uhara on “Star Trek” was hired to promote women and Blacks applying to become astronauts. Sally Ride with a Ph.D. in Astrophysics, was among the first women hired for this NASA training. 35 people were selected with 21 from the military.

Ride took pilot lessons privately and obtained a pilot’s license. Non-pilot mission specialists wound need to know about piloting in case a pilot became incapacitated.

Sally Ride worked on the Remote Manipulator System which involved engineering knowledge in operating an arm that could lift and move a payload. Ride often worked from 8:30 am until 9 pm learning about these operations.

Ride was chosen to be the first American woman in space. Ride married. There was a rumor that NASA did not want the image of a single woman in space with several men.

Engineers wanted Sally Ride to have enough tampons for a one week space flight yet were woefully ignorant of how many would be necessary. “Is 100 the right number?” one asked. Ride didn’t tell them that her strenuous exercising had stopped her periods.

Ride went into space on June 18, 1983.

When Sally Ride visited Norway, the U.S. Ambassador Mark Austad remarked “I’m sure it’s been a tiring journey. I guess it’s like rape. If it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

Sally Ride and others knew that launching a spacecraft in below freezing weather could cause the 0 rings to ignite and explode the craft. NASA management ignored this in launching the Challenger, which exploded for this precise reason.

Ride made three flights into space. After the Challenger disaster, she decided that was enough. She remained with NASA for a year to help with their “recovery process”. Ride retired from NASA in 1987.

Stanford University declined to offer Ride a professorship. She instead became a tenured Physics Professor at the University of California, San Diego and Director of the California Space Institute.

After the Columbia exploded on reentry, Ride noted it could have remained in flight for about 30 days. During that time, the Atlantic could have been sent to rescue the crew.


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