Jack Simpson: Sally Ride, a true space hero

I don't know about you, but as a child many of us remember our parents buying us chemistry sets, telescopes and microscopes for Christmas. Our elders were trying to spark our interest in science.

In the case of Sally Ride, her parents did this and were successful in beginning Sally's academic achievements in science.

President Obama said of Sally Ride, "She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars." What a nice thing to say of a national hero, the first American woman to go into space. Sally died on July 23, at age 61, of pancreatic cancer.

Ride, a female professor of physics, not only rode the space shuttle Challenger, but she came safely back to Earth to write books and inspire young people to seek a place in the space program.

It was in 1983 and 1984 when she flew with Challenger. She was educated at Stanford, lived in La Jolla, Calif., and served as a Presidential science adviser all the while acting as a trailblazer for countless females helping them achieve their dreams in math, technology and science.

With her own career begun from the gifts of her parents, Sally Ride went on to earn three degrees in physics. One such degree in this field would have been a real challenge for most of us. In 1983, Sally earned her doctorate, applied for and was accepted to the Astronaut Corps. She told someone that she just wanted to fly into space. As it turned out, she became the first American woman in space.

And in case anyone cares, she was also the first lesbian in space. At the age of 32, she was the first among women to use the robot arm.

Her record of firsts is slightly overshadowed by Soviet women, Valentina Tereshkova and Svetlana Savitskaya, who flew into space in 1963 and 1982. In writing her books for children, Sally Ride was helped by her partner, Doctor Tam O'Shaughnessy, a childhood friend. The couple were "very private" in the relationship.

Since her death, Sally Ride has been remembered as one of America's space pioneers. She had a 17-month battle with cancer and finally the disease did her in.

She will be remembered as a member of California's Hall of Fame, the National Woman's Hall of Fame, the Astronauts Hall of Fame, as well as having her name placed on two elementary schools.

No doubt about it, Sally Ride is a member of a select group of Americans space heroes. She is a role model and we are proud of the outstanding job she did for our country. "Ride, Sally Ride."

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and a law enforcement officer. His column appears every Friday.