As everyone surely knows by now, Sally Ride died this past Monday at age 61 from pancreatic cancer. An astronaut, physics professor at the University of California, and benefactor of young students, Ride dedicated her life to science education. In the video above, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, she describes how the shuttle program she was so much a part of helped provide evidence for what scientists now describe as climate change.
Ride entered the space program in 1978 and made her first space flight in 1983 and her second in 1984, becoming the first woman to do a spacewalk. As the Smithsonian’s tribute to Sally Ride points out, what made her flight different from that of the first Soviet woman in orbit twenty years earlier is that she was the first in “a steady queue of women going to work in space.” She did not take the honor of being a “first” lightly: after her retirement from NASA in 1987, she founded her own company, Sally Ride Science, to motivate young people, especially young girls, to pursue careers in math, science, and technology.
In the video, Ride’s quiet optimism shines through her discussion of a phenomenon that can seem dire. While she faults our technology for causing global climate shifts, she was optimistic that similar applications of technology can help us, as she puts it above, “solve the problem we created for ourselves.”
NASA’s website has a detailed tribute to Sally Ride, including a short video in which she discusses both of her shuttle missions.
For more information about the science of climate change, see this extensive free course from the University of Chicago.