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11 Peculiar Meetings Between Famous People

PA Photos/Landov
PA Photos/Landov

You'd expect famous people to know other famous people. But maybe not these famous people.

1. Nikita Khrushchev & Marilyn Monroe

In September 1959, during Khrushchev's American tour, he visited 20th Century Fox Studios. At a lunch banquet with hundreds of stars (including Frank Sinatra, Edward G. Robinson, and Gary Cooper), he was introduced to Marilyn Monroe. Wearing a low-cut, tight black dress, she delivered a line that Natalie Wood, a fluent Russian speaker, had taught her: "We the workers of 20th Century Fox rejoice that you have come to visit our studio and country."

Khrushchev was mesmerized. "He looked at me the way a man looks on a woman," Monroe said.

"You're a very lovely young lady," he said, squeezing her hand.

"This is about the biggest day in the history of the movie business," Monroe told the cameras. But later, she reportedly told her maid, "He was fat and ugly and had warts on his face and he growled. He squeezed my hand so long and so hard that I thought he would break it. I guess it was better than having to kiss him."

2. Samuel Beckett & André the Giant

In 1953, after the success of Waiting for Godot, playwright Beckett bought land in a French commune, forty miles north of Paris. He built a cottage with the help of some locals, including a Bulgarian-born farmer named Boris Rousimoff. Beckett and Rousimoff became friends, and would sometimes get together to play cards. Rousimoff had a son, André. At age 12, the boy was well over six feet tall and weighed 250 pounds. The local school bus couldn't hold him, and the Rousimoff family car wasn't big enough for him. So Beckett stepped forward, offering to give the growing giant a lift to school in his pick-up truck on his drives into town. Years later, André said that the two of them mostly talked about cricket.

3. T.S. Eliot & Groucho Marx

In the early 1960s, the poet and the comedian became unlikely pen pals. Eliot was a fan and requested a signed photo. In his letter of thanks, he called Groucho his "most coveted pin-up" and said, "Whether you really want a photograph of me or whether you merely asked for it out of politeness, you are going to get one anyway." Upon receiving Eliot's 8x10, Groucho replied, "I had no idea you were so handsome. Why you haven't been offered the lead in some sexy movies I can only attribute to the stupidity of the casting directors." After three years of occasional correspondence, the two finally met in London in 1964. Marx and his wife were looking forward to an evening of intellectually stimulating conversation, but all the ailing Eliot wanted to talk about was old Marx Brothers movies. "We didn't stay late," Marx later said, "for we both felt that he wasn't up to a long evening of conversation. Especially mine."

4. Federico Fellini & Stan Lee

During a visit to New York in 1965, the Italian film director caught a virus and was laid up in the Hotel Pierre. Someone brought him some comic books to read. Fellini was so taken with the exploits of Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk that he called the Marvel Comics office and set up a meeting with the company's honcho Stan Lee. Years later, Lee recalled that his receptionist said, "Stan, there's a Fred Felony here to see you." Fellini entered Lee's office with a four-man entourage, all of them clad in black raincoats. With a translator smoothing the way, Fellini and Lee had a lively chat. Mostly, Fellini wanted to know about how the comic books were made. The two creative geniuses stayed in touch, with Lee visiting Fellini's villa in Rome and Fellini attending Broadway shows with Lee in New York.

5. James Brown & Alfred Hitchcock

Remember when talk shows used to keep guests on the panel together? One afternoon in 1969, Mike Douglas played host to Joan Rivers, Rod McKuen, James Brown, and Alfred Hitchcock. At one point, Brown leaned toward Hitch and asked a strangely confounding question: "In the picture Homicidal [Brown meant Psycho, but was confusing the title with a William Castle-directed knockoff], at the very end, this fella takes his wig off, as though he had played the part all the way through. Did you actually use a girl or did you use a fella?" Polite Englishman that he was, Hitchcock didn't embarrass Brown by correcting him on the movie title. Instead he offered a winking response: "I wouldn't dare tell you. It's a professional secret. That's worth money. Do you want to ruin me? What about my starving wife and child?" He then added, "I'll tell you afterwards when we go off."

6. The Beatles & Elvis Presley

During their summer tour in 1965, The Beatles visited Elvis in California one night at his Bel-Air home. At first, everyone was awkward around each other. Paul, John, and Ringo sat on the sofa with Elvis. George sat cross-legged on the floor. Respective managers Colonel Tom Parker and Brian Epstein stood off to the side. The television was on with the sound turned off. Elvis showed the Fabs the first remote control switcher any of them had ever seen. Finally, Elvis joked, "If you damn guys are just going to sit there and stare at me, I'm going to bed."

That broke the ice. Soon one of Elvis's buddies brought in guitars, and an informal jam session commenced. What songs did they play? No one remembers exactly, but, reportedly, a hit of the day called "You're My World" and "I Feel Fine" by The Beatles were two. Then they traded some war stories from the road, and talked about their mutual love for Peter Sellers and the film Dr. Strangelove. A few hours later, The Beatles left, with a complete set of Elvis records, a gun holster with a gold leather belt, and a table lamp shaped like a wagon – gifts from the King.

Elvis, by then far-removed from the raw rock 'n' roller that The Beatles had loved as teenagers, was something of a letdown. To John Lennon, at least. He later said: "It was like meeting Engelbert Humperdinck."

7. Elvis Presley & Richard Nixon

nixon-elvis

In the late 1960s, Elvis Presley started a hobby that bordered on an obsession – collecting honorary police badges. On December 21, 1970, he went after his holy grail, a badge from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), charming his way into President Richard Nixon's oval office.

In a heartfelt appeal, the purple-suited Elvis spoke of his rags-to-riches story and his desire to give back by helping America in its fight against "the drug culture and the hippie element." Pulling out all the stops, he even pointed a finger at The Beatles, who he said had been "promoting an anti-American spirit."

Nixon was apparently perplexed by the visit, but figured an association with a performer as popular as Elvis couldn't hurt. At the extensively photographed meeting, Elvis showed Nixon some family photos and a collection of law enforcement badges. Later, Nixon awarded him a BNDD badge, which listed Elvis' position as "Special Assistant."

8. Edgar Allan Poe & Charles Dickens

In 1842, when Dickens visited the U.S., the relatively unknown Poe requested a meeting. In a hotel in Philadelphia, the two discussed favorite writers and the necessity for an international copyright law. But what Poe really wanted was help in getting his book Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque published in England. Dickens promised to do what he could. Nine months later, he wrote Poe an apologetic note: "I have mentioned it to publishers with whom I have influence, but they have, one and all, declined the venture...Do not for a moment suppose that I have ever thought of you but with a pleasant recollection; and that I am not at all times prepared to forward your views in this country."

Actually, according to Poe biographer Una Pope-Hennessy, the meetings between the two "proved sterile and closed coldly. Neither seems to have liked the other much."

Twenty-five years later, when Dickens returned to America for his second tour, Poe was already dead. In Baltimore, Dickens learned that Poe's mother-in-law was ill and living on charity. Dickens visited her and slipped her some cash to help her out.

9. Orson Welles & Adolf Hitler

In 1970, while being interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show, Welles recalled his long-ago encounter with an unknown Hitler. As a teenager studying in Germany and Austria, Welles had accompanied a teacher on a hike. "The teacher, as it turned out, was sort of a budding Nazi," Welles said. "And there was a Nazi rally near Innsbruck, in the days when the Nazis were a very comical kind of minority party of nuts that no one took seriously at all. This teacher wangled a place at the table with the great man of this tiny little party of cranks. The man sitting next to me was Hitler, and he made so little impression on me that I can't remember a second of it. He had no personality whatsoever. He was invisible."

10. Bob Dylan & Woody Guthrie

Bob Dylan has said that when he first heard legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie's songs, he decided he wanted to be "Guthrie's greatest disciple." In 1961, a 19-year-old Dylan – still Robert Zimmerman to the world – visited his ailing hero at the Greystone Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey. Guthrie was being treated for erratic behavior, later diagnosed as Huntington's Chorea. The two struck up a warm friendship, with Dylan returning regularly to play songs, both Woody's and his own. One of those original tunes, called "Song to Woody," ended up on his debut album in 1962. Their friendship was later spoofed on an SNL skit in 1980.

11. Steve Jobs & Andy Warhol

In October 1984, a 29-year-old Steve Jobs attended a birthday party for Sean Lennon, son of Yoko Ono and the late John Lennon. Steve's gift to the nine-year-old boy was a Macintosh computer (it had debuted earlier that year). As Steve showed Sean how to use the mouse, and a program called MacPaint, a few party guests gathered, gaping at this amazing machine.

"Can I try?" asked Andy Warhol. Jobs gave Warhol a quick lesson, but Warhol didn't get how to use the mouse. He lifted and waved it, as if it were a conductor's baton. Jobs placed his hand on Warhol's and guided it along the floor. Finally, Warhol began drawing, staring at the "pencil" as it drew on the screen.

In his diary, Warhol later wrote, "I said that once some man had been calling me a lot wanting to give me one [a Macintosh], but I'd never called him back or something, and then the kid looked up and said, 'Yeah, that was me. I'm Steve Jobs.'"

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NASA / Harrison H. Schmitt
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Space
The 12 Men Who Walked on the Moon
NASA / Harrison H. Schmitt
NASA / Harrison H. Schmitt

If you were born after the Apollo program, and maybe even if you remember those days, it seems almost unbelievable that NASA sent manned missions to the moon 239,000 miles away. People continue to express sadness at the fact that the Apollo lunar missions were so long ago, and that soon there will be no one left alive who actually went to the moon. Today, Alan Bean—the fourth man to walk on the moon and the last surviving member of the Apollo 12 mission—passed away at the age of 86. Which makes it the perfect time to remember—or get to know—the only 12 people who ever walked on a body other than planet Earth.

1. NEIL ALDEN ARMSTRONG

Navy test pilot, engineer, and Korean War veteran Neil Armstrong left the Navy in 1952, but continued in the Naval Reserve. He worked as an experimental test pilot for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) beginning in 1955, which evolved into NASA. Armstrong was assigned as an astronaut in 1962, and flew on the Gemini 8 mission in 1966, where he performed the first successful space docking procedure. Armstrong was selected to be the first man to walk on the moon, as the Apollo 11 mission was planned, for several reasons: he was the commander of the mission, he didn't have a big ego, and the door of the lunar lander was on his side. Although the first steps on the moon are what he will always be known for, Armstrong considered the mission's biggest accomplishment was landing the lunar module. He later said,

Pilots take no special joy in walking: pilots like flying. Pilots generally take pride in a good landing, not in getting out of the vehicle.

Armstrong along with his crew were honored with parades, awards, and acclaim after their return to Earth, but Armstrong always gave credit to the entire NASA team for the Apollo moon missions. He resigned from NASA in 1971 and became a professor of of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati for eight years. Armstrong served on the boards of many corporations and foundations, but gradually withdrew from publicity tours and autograph signings. He didn't particularly care for fame.

Neil Armstrong died on August 25, 2012, at age 82. His family released a statement that concluded:

“For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

2. EDWIN "BUZZ" ALDRIN

After graduating third in his class at West Point in 1951 with a degree in science, Buzz Aldrin flew 66 combat missions as an Air Force pilot in the Korean War. Then he earned a PhD at MIT. Aldrin joined NASA as an astronaut in 1963. In 1966 he flew in the Gemini 12 spacecraft on the final Gemini mission.

Aldrin accompanied Neil Armstrong on the first moon landing in the Apollo 11 mission, becoming the second person, and now the first of the living astronauts, to set foot on the moon. Aldrin had taken a home Communion kit with him, and took Communion on the lunar surface, but did not broadcast the fact. Aldrin retired from NASA in 1971 and from the Air Force in 1972. He later suffered from clinical depression and wrote about the experience, but recovered with treatment. Aldrin has co-authored five books about his experiences and the space program, plus two novels. Aldrin, who is now 88 years old, continues to work to promote space exploration.

3. CHARLES "PETE" CONRAD

Pete Conrad was a Princeton graduate and Navy test pilot before entering the astronaut corps in 1962. He flew on the Gemini V mission and was commander of Gemini XI. Conrad was commander of the Apollo 12 mission, launched during a lightning storm which temporarily knocked out the command module's power shortly after liftoff. When Conrad stepped onto the moon, he said,

Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me.

Conrad later flew on the Skylab 2 mission as commander with the first crew to board the space station. He retired from NASA and the Navy in 1973, after which he worked for American Television and Communications Company and then for McDonnell Douglas.

Pete Conrad died on July 8, 1999 in a motorcycle accident. He was 69.

4. ALAN L. BEAN

Apollo astronaut Alan Bean was the fourth man to walk on the moon, during the Apollo 12 mission in 1969. He was the lunar module pilot. Bean was also the commander of the Skylab Mission II in 1973, which spent 59 days in flight. Altogether, Bean logged 1,671 hours and 45 minutes in space. Bean is the only artist to have visited another world, so his paintings of the lunar environment have the authenticity of an eyewitness. He retired from the Navy with the rank of Captain, but continued to train astronauts at NASA until 1981, when he retired to devote time to his art.

Bean died on May 26, 2018 at the age of 86.

5. ALAN SHEPARD

Alan Shepard was a bona-fide space pioneer who cemented his spot in history long before the Apollo program. A U.S. Navy test pilot, he was selected as one of the original Mercury astronauts in 1959. Shepard was the first American launched into space aboard the Freedom 7 spacecraft on May 5, 1961. His suborbital flight reached an altitude of 116 miles.

Barred from flight during the Gemini program because of an inner ear problem, Shepard had the problem fixed surgically and was assigned as commander of the Apollo 14 mission to the moon. He was responsible for the most accurate lunar module landing ever, and spent 9 hours and 17 minutes exploring the moon's surface outside the module. During that time, he famously knocked a couple of golf balls with a six-iron attached to his sample-collecting tool. With one arm (due to the space suit), he managed to drive further than professional golfers on Earth could ever hope to, thanks to the moon's lower gravity.

Before and after his Apollo mission, Shepard served as Chief of the Astronaut Office. He retired from NASA and the Navy in 1974, having achieved the rank of Rear Admiral. Shepard went into private business, serving on the board of several corporations and foundations. He founded Seven Fourteen Enterprises, an umbrella corporation named after his two space missions. Shepard wrote a book with Deke Slayton, Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon. Shepard compared his book to The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, saying, "'We wanted to call ours 'The Real Stuff,' since his was just fiction.''

Alan Shepard died on July 21, 1998 at the age of 74.

6. EDGAR D. MITCHELL

Ed Mitchell joined the Navy in 1952 and became a test pilot. Then he earned a PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT. NASA selected him for the astronaut corps in 1966. In January of 1971, Mitchell flew on Apollo 14 as lunar module pilot, becoming the sixth man to walk on the lunar surface. He retired in 1972 and founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which explores psychic and paranormal events. Mitchell gained some notoriety after NASA for his views on UFOs, as he has asserted that the government is covering up evidence at Roswell. His information, he admitted, came secondhand from various sources.

Mitchell died on February 4, 2016, the eve of the 45th anniversary of his lunar landing.

7. DAVID RANDOLPH SCOTT

David Scott joined the Air Force after graduating from West Point. Selected as an astronaut in 1963, he flew with Neil Armstrong on the Gemini 8 mission and was command module pilot on Apollo 9. Scott then went to the moon on Apollo 15, which landed on the lunar surface on July 30, 1971. It was the first mission to land near mountains. Scott and Jim Irwin spent 18 hours exploring the lunar landscape in the Lunar Roving Vehicle in the first mission to use such a vehicle to travel on the moon.

Scott became famous for the "postage stamp incident," in which he took unauthorized postage stamp covers to the moon with the intent to sell them afterwards. NASA had turned a blind eye to such activities before, but publicity over the matter caused them to discipline Scott and he never flew again. Scott retired from NASA in 1977 and served as a consultant for several movies and TV shows about the space program. He also wrote a book with former cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race.

David Scott is 85 years old.

8. JAMES B. IRWIN

Air Force test pilot James Irwin became an astronaut in 1966. He was the lunar module pilot for Apollo 15 in 1971. His 18.5 hours of lunar surface exploration included gathering many samples of rocks. The astronauts' medical conditions were being monitored from Earth, and they noticed Irwin developing symptoms of heart trouble. As he was breathing 100% oxygen and under lower gravity than on Earth, mission control decided he was in the best environment possible for such irregularity -under the circumstances. Irwin's heart rhythm was normal by the time Apollo 15 returned to Earth, but he had a heart attack a few months later. Irwin retired from NASA and the Air Force (with the rank of Colonel) in 1972 and founded the High Flight Foundation in order to spread the Christian gospel during the last twenty years of his life. He notably took several groups on expeditions to Mt. Ararat to search for Noah's Ark.

James Irwin died on August 8, 1991, of a heart attack. He was 61 years old.

9. JOHN WATTS YOUNG

John Young is so far the longest serving astronaut in NASA history. He was selected as an astronaut in 1962 and his first space flight was in 1965 aboard Gemini 3 with Gus Grissom. He achieved some notoriety at that time by smuggling a corned beef sandwich onto the flight, angering NASA. But Young went on to complete a total of six space missions in the Gemini, Apollo, and the space shuttle programs. He orbited the moon on the Apollo 10 mission, then was commander of the Apollo 16 mission and became the ninth person to walk on the moon. Young was also commander of the first space shuttle flight in 1981 and returned for shuttle flight 9 in 1983, which deployed the first Spacelab module. Young was also scheduled for another space shuttle flight in 1986, which was delayed after the Challenger disaster, so the veteran astronaut never made his seventh flight. Young finally retired from NASA after 42 years of service in 2004.

John Young died on January 5, 2018 at the age of 87 following complications with pneumonia.

10. CHARLES M. DUKE JR.

Astronaut Charles Duke was capcom during the Apollo 11 mission. His is the voice you recall saying, "Roger, Twank... Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot!" when the lunar module landed on the moon. Duke also made history by catching German measles while training in the backup crew for the Apollo 13 mission, exposing the crew to the disease and causing Ken Mattingly to be replaced by Jack Swigart on that terrifying spaceflight. Duke went to the moon (with Mattingly as command module pilot) on the Apollo 16 mission in April of 1972. He retired from NASA in 1975 having reached the rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force, and founded Duke Investments. Duke also became a Christian and a lay minister to prison inmates.

Charles Duke is 82 years old.

11. HARRISON "JACK" SCHMITT

Jack Schmitt was a geologist first, and trained as a pilot only after becoming a NASA astronaut. In fact, he was only the second civilian to fly into space, after Neil Armstrong, who was a veteran at the time of his flights. Schmitt was assigned to fly to the moon on the Apollo 18 mission, but when the Apollo 18 and 19 missions were cancelled in September of 1970, the scientific community lobbied to have Schmitt reassigned to Apollo 17 (replacing Joe Engle) as lunar module pilot. He was the first scientist in outer space. On the Apollo 17 mission, he and Gene Cernan spent three days on the lunar surface (a record) and drove their Lunar Roving Vehicle around collecting samples, conducting experiments, and leaving measuring instruments behind. Schmitt and Cernan gathered 250 pounds of lunar material to take back.

After resigning from NASA in 1975, Schmitt, a Republican, was elected Senator for New Mexico and served from 1977 to 1983. He became an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and lives in Silver City, New Mexico. In recent years, Dr. Schmitt's scientific background and political leanings have kept him in the spotlight as he has said that the concept of climate change is "a red herring," and that environmentalism is linked with communism.

Jack Schmitt is 82 years old.

12. EUGENE E. CERNAN

As a Navy pilot, Gene Cernan logged over 5,000 hours flying time. He was accepted into the astronaut program in 1963. Cernan's first space flight was on Gemini IX in 1966, in which he conducted extravehicular activities (a space walk), followed by the Apollo 10 mission in May of 1969, which orbited the moon. Cernan was assigned commander of the Apollo 17 mission before anyone knew it would be the last Apollo mission. Even after the Apollo program was cut, no one knew for sure that travel to the moon would be abandoned for decades. When Schmitt and Cernan boarded their lunar module for the last time on December 13th, 1972, Cernan said:

"I'm on the surface; and, as I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come — but we believe not too long into the future — I'd like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17."

Cernan retired from the Navy and from NASA in 1976. He went on to found an aerospace technology firm, and wrote a book about his experiences as an astronaut. He also contributed his talents to ABC-TV as a commentator during shuttle flights and has made appearances on various space specials. In September of 2011, Cernan testified before Congress on the future of the space program.

The space program has never been an entitlement, it's an investment in the future - an investment in technology, jobs, international respect and geo-political leadership, and perhaps most importantly in the inspiration and education of our youth. Those best and brightest minds at NASA and throughout the multitudes of private contractors, large and small, did not join the team to design windmills or redesign gas pedals, but to live their dreams of once again taking us where no man has gone before.

Gene Cernan died on January 16, 2017

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U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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5 Things You Didn't Know About Sally Ride
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

You know Sally Ride as the first American woman to travel into space. But here are five things you might not know about the astronaut, who was born on this day in 1951.

1. SHE PROVED THERE IS SUCH THING AS A STUPID QUESTION.

When Sally Ride made her first space flight in 1983, she was both the first American woman and the youngest American to make the journey to the final frontier. Both of those distinctions show just how qualified and devoted Ride was to her career, but they also opened her up to a slew of absurd questions from the media.

Journalist Michael Ryan recounted some of the sillier questions that had been posed to Ride in a June 1983 profile for People. Among the highlights:

Q: “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?”
A: “There’s no evidence of that.”

Q: “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?”
A: “How come nobody ever asks (a male fellow astronaut) those questions?"

Forget going into space; Ride’s most impressive achievement might have been maintaining her composure in the face of such offensive questions.

2. SHE MIGHT HAVE BEEN A TENNIS PRO.

When Ride was growing up near Los Angeles, she played more than a little tennis, and she was seriously good at it. She was a nationally ranked juniors player, and by the time she turned 18 in 1969, she was ranked 18th in the whole country. Tennis legend Billie Jean King personally encouraged Ride to turn pro, but she went to Swarthmore instead before eventually transferring to Stanford to finish her undergrad work, a master’s, and a PhD in physics.

King didn’t forget about the young tennis prodigy she had encouraged, though. In 1984 an interviewer playfully asked the tennis star who she’d take to the moon with her, to which King replied, “Tom Selleck, my family, and Sally Ride to get us all back.”

3. HOME ECONOMICS WAS NOT HER BEST SUBJECT.

After retiring from space flight, Ride became a vocal advocate for math and science education, particularly for girls. In 2001 she founded Sally Ride Science, a San Diego-based company that creates fun and interesting opportunities for elementary and middle school students to learn about math and science.

Though Ride was an iconic female scientist who earned her doctorate in physics, just like so many other youngsters, she did hit some academic road bumps when she was growing up. In a 2006 interview with USA Today, Ride revealed her weakest subject in school: a seventh-grade home economics class that all girls had to take. As Ride put it, "Can you imagine having to cook and eat tuna casserole at 8 a.m.?"

4. SHE HAD A STRONG TIE TO THE CHALLENGER.

Ride’s two space flights were aboard the doomed shuttle Challenger, and she was eight months deep into her training program for a third flight aboard the shuttle when it tragically exploded in 1986. Ride learned of that disaster at the worst possible time: she was on a plane when the pilot announced the news.

Ride later told AARP the Magazine that when she heard the midflight announcement, she got out her NASA badge and went to the cockpit so she could listen to radio reports about the fallen shuttle. The disaster meant that Ride wouldn’t make it back into space, but the personal toll was tough to swallow, too. Four of the lost members of Challenger’s crew had been in Ride’s astronaut training class.

5. SHE DIDN'T SELL OUT.

A 2003 profile in The New York Times called Ride one of the most famous women on Earth after her two space flights, and it was hard to argue with that statement. Ride could easily have cashed in on the slew of endorsements, movie deals, and ghostwritten book offers that came her way, but she passed on most opportunities to turn a quick buck.

Ride later made a few forays into publishing and endorsements, though. She wrote or co-wrote more than a half-dozen children’s books on scientific themes, including To Space and Back, and in 2009 she appeared in a print ad for Louis Vuitton. Even appearing in an ad wasn’t an effort to pad her bank account, though; the ad featured an Annie Leibovitz photo of Ride with fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell gazing at the moon and stars. According to a spokesperson, all three astronauts donated a “significant portion” of their modeling fees to Al Gore’s Climate Project.

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