Sally Ride Warns Against Global Warming; Wonders If Technology Can Save Us From Ourselves

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.

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