bynkii (bynkii) wrote,

Signs and ponderings

So near my house, on I-29, is a sign for a Ford dealership with a pic of a new Mustang on it and an attempt to work in some rock and roll fun. What the sign should say is "Ride, Sally, Ride"

Instead the sign says "Ride, Sally Ride"

Every time I see it, I think, "I wonder what Sally Ride thinks of that."

Then I wonder about how many kids today know the significance of that name. Who Sally Ride was, and still is, and what she did. How, over twenty years ago, she got into a terribly small seat with some other folks, and in five minutes became the first american female astronaut to make it into space.

True, the Soviets did that long ago. But Valentina Tereshkova was a scared, terribly ill woman in an automatic capsule. She was PR with boobs.

Sally Ride has a Ph.D. in Physics and was a working member of the crew of the Challenger. She founded a company that encourages girls to get into science and math. She's a professor of physics at UCSD, and in her own words:

My research interests center on the theory of nonlinear beam-wave interactions, primarily connected with free electron lasers and related nonlinear systems. I have published work on the single particle description of conventional free electron lasers, and analysis of novel lasers (e.g., FELs in axial magnetic fields, and laser processes which may occur naturally). I am also interested in scattering of intense lasers off beams and plasmas, and more recently, in certain areas of space plasma physics, including nonlinear effects associated with Whistler propagation in the magnetosphere.

Her UCSD home page is here, go read it.

I wonder how many girls turn away from science because they don't see why they should bother, and never understand the potential heights they pass up.

My dream, from the time I could walk until late in the sixth grade was to be a fighter pilot. Because, if I was a fighter pilot, it would then be easier to be an astronaut. And if I was an astronaut, I could one day maybe go into space. I say "until late in the sixth grade" because it was then that I needed glasses. There's one little issue with that. To be a fighter pilot, you have to have perfect vision.

On the way home from getting glasses, my mom thought I was about to cry because I was worried about being teased. I couldn't tell her that at the age of 12, I had just seen my dream crushed, utterly. You have to understand, this was 1979. The shuttle was years from flying. To go into space, you had to be a fighter pilot. Cargo pilots, bomber pilots, they flew. But only fighter pilots were the ones controlling the shuttle, or the HL-10, or the M2-F2/M2-F3, or the X-15. Only fighter pilots were trusted with the controls of rockets. Only fighter pilots got to touch the face of god, even if only for a second or two.

I found other things I was good at, and a few things I'm really good at.

But, in a very real sense, these things are second best. They are what I was forced to settle for. The thing I wanted could not ever be. No matter how good you are at your second choice, it never feels the same.

Sally Ride found the other path. She went where I still dream of going. It is, perhaps, the most intense dream I have. To one day be of the earth, but separated from her. To see her as the Universe does, blue with white highlights, as the song says, "A big blue marble in space". To turn and see the moon, barren and fierce, unfiltered by atmosphere, and somehow, pure in that barren-ness. To float, without touching the walls of my craft, and, for a brief moment, be part of the universe the same way as my Earth is.

Sally Ride is more than a bad pun on a Mustang advert. I just wish more people knew how much more.

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