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Lesbian astronaut Sally Ride awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Lesbian astronaut Sally Ride awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

The White House and NASA are to honor America’s first woman in space and first know LGBT astronaut, Sally Ride, by awarding her a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.

President Barack Obama announced on Monday Ride will be posthumously awarded America’s highest civilian honor during a White House ceremony later this year.

He said: ‘We remember Sally Ride not just as a national hero, but as a role model to generations of young women. Sally inspired us to reach for the stars, and she advocated for a greater focus on the science, technology, engineering and math that would help us get there.

‘Sally showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve, and I look forward to welcoming her family to the White House as we celebrate her life and legacy.’

NASA is recognising Ride by renaming a camera aboard the space station the Sally Ride EarthKAM. Ride started the EarthKAM program in 1995.

The program makes it possible for middle-school students around the world to request pictures of specific locations on Earth.

NASA is also establishing a Sally Ride internship program to help students from deprived backgrounds pursue research interests at one of NASA’s centers.

Ten internships will be available every year, encouraging students to go into careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) of which Ride was a strong and longtime proponent.

The announcements were made at a national tribute celebrating the late astronaut’s life and legacy – ‘Sally Ride: A Lifetime of Accomplishment, A Champion of Science Literacy’ – at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. The tribute highlighted Ride’s contribution to space exploration and science.

Tam O’Shaughnessy, Ride’s life partner of 27 years, co-founder and chair of the board of Sally Ride Science, said: ‘Sally Ride Science is thrilled to be presenting a national tribute to Sally to honor her lifelong commitment to space exploration, but also to improving science education and to supporting science literacy for all students.’

Ride trained as a physicist and became the first American woman to fly in space when she was on the space shuttle Challenger on 18 June, 1983. She also flew on Challenger in 1984.

Two years later, Challenger and its crew were lost in an explosion shortly after launch and Ride served as a member of the panel investigating the tragedy.

She left NASA in 1987 and co-founded Sally Ride Science, a company focusing on science education for girls.

Ride died last year at the age of 61 after a 17-month battle against pancreatic cancer.