Maybe this is a story to share with those who sneer at Affirmative Action.
Sally is an interesting person, both challenging the norm and also hiding from scrutiny. Often our fictional heroes are born into their struggle and spend their lives fighting their cause with a lot of attention and fanfare. But I appreciate how this article doesn’t try to romanticize what Sally’s intentions were, changing the world is sometimes just following your passions and enjoying life.
Sally’s next chapter, and her real contribution to society, is just now being written as the young women of 1983 are now leading fulfilling careers that maybe wouldn’t have been possible for them just a few decades ago, and they will tell their stories of being inspired by watching Sally on television and learning about her in school.
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Also the first American astronaut whose name forms the refrain of a popular R&B song.
And to think that twenty years earlier Valentina Tereshkova made her first flight in to space and no one asked her if she’d cry on the job.
Well yeah, it was just assumed.
I sneer at the centuries of affirmative action towards white Christian males.
You can say that Sally was the first volunteer woman astronaut.
All this was before my time but when people talk about how they were inspired by Ride I wonder why no one talks about Valentina . Nowadays when the possibility of a woman president is mentioned, people often bring up other female world leaders. But was it different back than because the Cold War contaminated everything? Or maybe people were excited at first then lost interest as it wasn’t followed up? I would like to know.
How was Valentina not a volunteer?
She wasn’t even the best qualified. Though she was chosen from a pool of applicants, it was more or less another political publicity stunt to demonstrate Soviet superiority.
Up until then, she was a factory worker and a recreational skydiver, but her father was a war hero, and she gave all the right pro-party answers during the interview process. All they needed were candidates to pass the physical tests and look good on paper, and she was honorarily made a member of the Soviet Air Force. Even among their most qualified cosmonauts, complete control of the vehicle was maintained from the ground, making them, as Chuck Yeager called our astronauts, “spam in a can”.
Cold War historians say that there were times during her mission that she seemed on the verge of panic, but a nation that didn’t even announce launches until they had actually lifted off and had complete control of news outlets had the mission summary had been written by committee ahead of time.
Once Tereshkova had fulfilled her duties, she never went back to space, but had reaped the rewards of party support for her education and political career.
It was another 19 years before Russia sent another woman into space – yes, Svetlana Savitskaya was the first qualified woman, but I was going for a bit of political snark.
The question wasn’t whether she was qualified or not, it was “how is she not a volunteer” in response to your “You can say that Sally was the first volunteer woman astronaut.”
Stop moving the goalposts. They were both volunteers.
There were all sorts of questions about Valentina’s performance whilst she was in space, lots of questions about how sick she got, which pushed out of the space program after her first flight. However, German Titov (the second man in space) had big, well documented problems with space sickness, but he was allowed to continue in the space program.
So yes, Soviet Russia was about as sexist as the US at that time, they just recognised the usefulness of a good bit of PR.
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