A more fitting name could not have been reserved for the “first American woman in Space.” (1)
Dr. Sally Ride, “a 32-year-old physicist and pilot, functioned as a ‘mission specialist’ and became the first American woman in space when she began a six-day mission aboard the space shuttle Challenger.” (1)
The milestone for NASA and American women took place on June 18, 1983. (1)
The June 19, 1983, Middletown (Ohio) Journal’s front page headline announced:
“Sally has ‘fun’ as space job begins”
The following article stated : “After 22 years and 57 men, the United States put a woman in space Saturday. Sally Ride, a 32-year-old astrophysicist, went right to work, sending a Canadian satellite spinning out of Challenger’s cargo bay...
“’It sure is fun,’ she told Mission Control during her first hour in space.
At the beginning of the historic flight, “the voice of launch control exulted: ‘Liftoff, liftoff of STS-7 and America’s first woman astronaut.’”
The article reported that “Ms. Ride’s husband, Steve Hawley – an astronaut who is to fly in space for the first time next year – bade her farewell from launch control...
“Sally, have a ball,” he said. “A crowd estimated at half-a-million urged her upward. Many donned T-shirts with the slogan, ‘Ride, Sally Ride.’”
“In his weekly radio address President [Ronald] Reagan called Ms. Ride an example of the great strides women have made. He wished the crew well and added: ‘Nancy and I look forward to being on hand to greet them when they land...”
Ride was not the first female in Space, however. Her heralded ascent occurred nearly twenty years to the day after the first woman ever was launched into Space.
On June 16, 1963, 26-year-old Russian, Valentina Tereshkova, became the very first woman in space. She was a former cotton mill worker. (1)
The day after the Russian space milestone an Associated Press account in the Middletown Journal reported that “The world’s first woman cosmonaut and a male Soviet space comrade whirled around the globe in separate spaceships today. It seemed doubtful that they would link up in orbit.”
The AP article clearly demonstrated a pervasive attitude of the times in which women were often described by their looks as well as their accomplishments:
“Valentina Tereshkova, 26, an attractive blonde, woke up feeling fine this morning after her first night in orbit, Tass news agency said.”
“Her space partner, Lt. Col. Valery Bykovsky, 28, also awoke refreshed from his third night of globe-girdling.
“Both cosmonauts began their working day with physical exercises,” said Tass...
“...Observers noted...that Miss Tereshkova is not a trained pilot and might not be able to carry out her role in a complicated link-up maneuver.
“Tass said the purpose of sending a man and woman into space was to compare the effect of space flight on the two sexes.
“The Soviet Union rocketed Miss Tereshkova, a former factory worker, aloft Sunday, two days after Bykvosky blasted into space...”
Today women astronauts are regular passengers aboard American spacecraft.
And it doesn’t matter how they look.
(1) “The 2019 Chase’s Calendar of Events” available for checkout at MidPointe Library.
Images from Middletown Journal, June 17 and 19, 1983. Available for viewing on microfilm at MidPointe Library-Middletown.