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13 Directors Who Work With the Same Stars Again and Again

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AustinFilm.org

Maybe it’s a good working relationship that keeps these directors and actors coming back for more. Maybe it’s romance. Or perhaps it’s because when the two collaborate, the box office explodes. The list of frequent collaborators is a long one; here are just a few.

1. Woody Allen

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When Woody Allen and Mia Farrow met in 1979, Allen was a commercial success: He had just received Oscar nominations for best director, best actor, and best original screenplay for Annie Hall—the first person to accomplish that feat since Orson Welles in 1941 for Citizen Kane.

Farrow was working on Broadway when she agreed to attend a dinner with actor Michael Caine. Allen was there, and 12 years later, they had collaborated on 13 films.

Of course, they don’t make movies together anymore—or even talk to each other—after Allen married Farrow’s adopted daughter in 1997.

Farrow wasn't the only woman Allen frequently worked with: The director and Diane Keaton, who also had a romantic relationship with each other throughout the ‘70s, made seven films together during that decade. After Manhattan in ’79, they didn’t collaborate again until 1987’s Radio Days. To date, Keaton has appeared in nine Woody Allen pictures.

2. Joel and Ethan Coen

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The Coen Brothers have a lengthy list of actors and actresses they frequently work with: George Clooney, Steve Buscemi, John Goodman, John Turturro, Jon Polito, and Frances McDormand, who has made six films with the directing duo (not including uncredited voice work on Barton Fink).

McDormand—who is married to Joel Coen—met the brothers through actress Holly Hunter. She and Hunter had lived together in the dorms at Yale and shared an apartment in New York after graduating. After McDormand met the brothers, they cast her in their debut, low-budget thriller, Blood Simple.

3. Quentin Tarantino

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Tarantino’s working relationship with Samuel L. Jackson spans 20 years and five films, including the recently released Django Unchained. But if first impressions meant anything in Hollywood, the two would have never worked together.

Jackson met Tarantino when he auditioned for the director’s first major film, Reservoir Dogs—but Jackson didn’t get the part. After the film premiered at Sundance, Jackson told Tarantino how much he enjoyed it. Tarantino responded with, “Don’t worry, I’m writing something for you.” That something turned out to be Pulp Fiction, the movie for which Jackson is perhaps best known.

4. Tim Burton

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Burton and his most prolific collaborator, Johnny Depp, have made eight quirky and dark films together. Though their work has often been box-office gold, apparently the duo receives plenty of flack for constantly relying on each other. “With Johnny, people complain if I work with him, people complain if I don’t work with him,” Burton told the Huffington Post.

Long-time collaborator and producer Scott Rudin has a theory that in all of Burton’s films, Depp is playing the character of Tim Burton. Burton doesn’t agree, but Depp does. Edward Scissorhands was about Burton’s inability to communicate as a teenager, Depp has said.

Their working-in-tandem relationship sparked from their first meeting in a coffee shop in 1989. “There was a connection … of having felt outside growing up, and freakish, and a little bit weird,” Depp says.

Helena Bonham-Carter, Burton’s longtime partner, is another frequent collaborator; the couple has made seven films together.

5. Alfred Hitchcock

A Certain Cinema

Hitchcock is known to have had many turbulent relationships with actresses, but when it came to actors, he had two favorites: James Stewart and Cary Grant, who each starred in four of his films.

Stewart, who Hitchcock worked with on Rope, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo, was said to be the actor Hitchcock could most identify with.

Hitchcock, however, called Grant “the only actor I ever loved in my whole life.”

Regardless of his two leading favorites, the man to appear in the most Hitchcock films (six) was Leo G. Carroll, who never got a starring role.

6. James Cameron

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After completing Titanic, Kate Winslet said she’d need to be paid “a lot of money” to work with Cameron again. Even though she and co-star Leonard DiCaprio haven’t been part of a Cameron project since, the director must be doing something right (aside from having an estimated $700 million net worth)—after all, there is one actor who keeps coming back.

Cameron and Bill Paxton's working relationship spans almost 20 years. The actor has appeared in five Cameron films, including The Terminator (1984), Titanic (1997) and, most recently, Ghosts of the Abyss (2003).

Paxton's not the only actor Cameron has used more than once: Michael Biehn starred in both The Abyss and The Terminator, and replaced James Remar in Aliens (1986) when Cameron and Remar couldn't see eye to eye.

Cameron has also worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger on four films, including True Lies and two movies in the Terminator franchise. Schwarzenegger and Cameron cemented their long-lasting friendship over lunch when it was decided that Schwarzenegger would play the cyborg villain instead of a human hero.

7. Joss Whedon

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Whedon is a big fan of Nathan Fillion, a man who has appeared in four of Whedon’s projects, with a fifth (Much Ado About Nothing) on the way. The writer/director has called Fillion this generation’s equivalent to Harrison Ford because of his ability to do comedy, action, drama, and romance. With last year’s Comic-Con Firefly reunion and the new film out in June, there may still be hope for a Dr. Horrible 2.

Amy Acker is also a long-time Whedon cohort; she appeared in Angel, Dollhouse, and The Cabin in the Woods, and stars alongside Fillion in Much Ado. Acker says she’s trying to bribe her old friend into letting her be on his new Marvel pilot for ABC, S.H.I.E.L.D.

8. Christopher Guest

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Actor/director Christopher Guest has an expansive ensemble cast he often uses in his “mockumentary” films, including Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy and John Michael Higgins. And it's not just because he likes working with them; it has a lot to do with the fact that the films Guest stars in and directs—which include Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Windrely more on improvision than dialogue from a script. "You’re not in the same position as people who are doing a conventional movie, because with that situation there are many, many actors that could play those parts," Guest told the AV Club. "In the kind of films that I do, there is an extremely limited number of people that can improvise. The reason the ensemble continues in the movies is because those are the people that can do that kind of work."

9. Ron Howard

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Ron Howard and Tom Hanks first met when Hanks played a doctor on Howard's television show, Happy Days. Howard told Hanks that he was planning to launch a career as a director and asked him to audition for a minor role in Splash; the actor has since appeared in three of the director's other films, including the adaptations of Dan Brown’s conspiracy theory novels, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, brought to the big screen in ’06 and ’09.

Howard has another frequent collaborator he's known for much longer: his younger brother, Clint. Clint has appeared in 17 of Ron's projects, beginning with Old Paint when Clint was just 10 years old. Through almost five decades of working together, the brothers have had at least one disagreement: During the 2008 election, Ron supported Obama, but Clint didn't.

10. Martin Scorsese

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Director Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro have made eight films together since being introduced by writer/director Brian De Palma in the '70s. During their three collaborations in that decade, the duo was interested in experimenting with improvisation and delving into the dark side of the male psyche. It’s been said that those characteristics fueled their passion for the craft and kept them together. They’re expected to reunite for The Irishman and a sequel to Taxi Driver.

Scorsese has been building a similar working relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio; De Niro was the one who introduced the two. “You should work with him some day,” De Niro told Scorsese. And they did. Beginning with Gangs of New York in ’02, the new pairing has worked on five films, including this year’s The Wolf of Wall Street.

“We’re a different generation, but he goes in the same places that I want to go,” Scorsese said of DiCaprio. “He’s not afraid to go there.”

11. Edgar Wright

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Director Edgar Wright has worked with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Martin Freeman on what the group calls the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. The name refers to the real-life Cornetto ice cream brand that is also featured in the films. Each movie has a scene where one of the main characters purchases a flavor that is indicative of the movie: Shaun of the Dead uses strawberry to represent blood and gore, while characters in Hot Fuzz eat the original blue flavor as an homage to the popular police uniform color. The last film in the trilogy—The World's End, which will be released October 25, 2013—will use mint chocolate chip. Maybe the reason this foursome keeps coming back for more is because of the ice cream?

12. Wes Anderson

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So far in his career, Wes Anderson has directed nine films—and Owen Wilson and Bill Murray have appeared in six of them. Both will appear in Anderson’s 2014 release, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and have starred in five of Anderson's films together (Wilson appeared in and co-wrote Bottle Rocket, but didn’t appear with Murray in Moonrise Kingdom.)

Anderson and Wilson met as students at the University of Texas in Austin. They took a playwriting class together, but sat in opposite corners of the room and never spoke, Anderson told AMC in 1996. It was later, when they bumped into each other in a hallway, that they struck up a friendship.

During press for Fantastic Mr. Fox, Murray described what it’s like working with Anderson: “It's an adventure. I like the way the showman has rounded out. I knew him when he was just nobody practically, just a child out of Texas. Just a kid with a saddle and a set of spurs. And now he's just rolling …”

13. Akira Kurosawa

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In a career that spanned 57 years, the Japanese filmmaker directed 30 films and, in 1990, accepted an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement. No one utilized actors quite the way Kurosawa did; the director spent large amounts of time in elaborate rehearsal to get them in the correct frame of mind for their scenes.

Kurosawa met actor Toshiro Mifune when the largest film production company in Japan launched a massive talent search. The director walked in to see Mifune performing a piece in a violent frenzy. He lost the competition, but became Kurosawa’s muse. The very detailed director worked with Mifune on 16 of his films, until a fight between the two on the set of 1965’s Red Beard split the pair up; Mifune never appeared in a Kurosawa film again.

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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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