Today in 1951, Sally Ride was born.
She became a worldwide sensation in the 1980s as the first American woman to go into space.
And, for the rest of her life, she made important contributions to the space program and science.
That’s what she’s known best for, but Sally Ride had a wide range of talents beyond space and science.
In fact, if a few things had happened differently, Sally Ride might be remembered not as a great astronaut but as a great tennis player.
Ride grew up in Los Angeles.
One of her earliest dreams was to play shortstop for the Dodgers.
Instead, her parents steered her toward tennis.
And she was pretty successful: she took lessons for a time from Grand Slam champion Alice Marble and ended up with a national ranking in youth tennis.
She won tennis scholarships to high school and to Stanford University.
In college Ride took a job at a summer camp in Lake Tahoe, where she taught campers how to play tennis.
And in 1972, the summer camp had a special guest: Billie Jean King.
At the time, King was on her way to winning a record 20 titles at Wimbledon, including six singles championships.
The year she came to the camp, King won not only Wimbledon, but the French Open and the US Open; that’s three of the four Grand Slams in one year.
At this career peak, King not only visited the camp but ended up playing a mixed doubles match.
It was her and a partner against Sally Ride and a partner.
After the match, King encouraged Ride to think about eventually joining the pro circuit and playing tennis for a living.
And Ride did think it over.
But she realized that as talented a player as she was, tennis wasn’t her calling.
She joked later that the reason she moved away from competition was her forehand, but she also said science was just more important to her than tennis was.
Ride went on to get her masters and PhD in physics at Stanford.
And then, in 1977, she saw a newspaper article about how NASA was looking for new astronaut candidates, and this time they were looking for women to apply.
She took part in two space shuttle missions, wrote books, taught college physics, and created companies that would encourage girls to follow in her footsteps.
She became a pioneer in her field just like Billie Jean King was in hers.
By the way, in 2018, the US Postal Service announced that it was issuing a Sally Ride stamp in memory of the first American woman in space.
Ride was an avid stamp collector, so that probably would have been a big deal to her.
And one of the people who took part in the dedication of that stamp was Ride’s friend and onetime tennis opponent, Billie Jean King.
Today is National Road Trip Day, with the summer travel season about to start.
If you’re in or around Sonoita, Arizona, don’t forget to visit one of that community’s attractions.
They have a series of propane tanks that have been painted in colorful and creative ways.
There’s a propane tank watermelon, a propane tank train, a propane tank cowboy and a giant propane tank hot dog.
20 Things You Might Not Know About Sally Ride (UC San Diego)
Sonoita, Arizona: Painted Propane Tanks (Roadside America)
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Photo by NASA via Wikicommons