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25 Things You Might Not Know About The Shining

1. Director Stanley Kubrick had an interest in horror well before he made The Shining.

Kubrick is known for his forays into different genres—and horror was a genre that piqued his interest. In the early '70s, he was in consideration to direct The Exorcist. But he ended up not getting the job because he only wanted to direct the film if he could also produce it. Kubrick later told a friend that he wanted “to make the world’s scariest movie, involving a series of episodes that would play upon the nightmare fears of the audience.”

2. The film was inspired by an episode of Omnibus.

In 1952, Kubrick worked as the second unit director on one episode of the television series Omnibus. But it was a different episode, about poker players getting into a fight, that inspired parts of The Shining.

According to Kubrick, “You think the point of the story is that his death was inevitable because a paranoid poker player would ultimately get involved in a fatal gunfight. But, in the end, you find out that the man he accused was actually cheating him. I think The Shining uses a similar kind of psychological misdirection to forestall the realization that the supernatural events are actually happening.”

3. Kubrick didn't even read a screenplay that Stephen King wrote...

According to one of Kubrick’s biographers, David Hughes, King wrote an entire draft of a screenplay for The Shining. Kubrick didn’t even deem it worth a glance, which makes sense as he once called King’s writing “weak.” Instead, Kubrick worked with Diane Johnson on the screenplay because he was a fan of her book, The Shadow Knows. The two ended up spending eleven weeks working on the script.

4. ...But Kubrick still had questions for King...

This is a legendary story that King apparently still tells at some book readings. Stanley Kubrick called him at seven in the morning to ask, “I think stories of the supernatural are fundamentally optimistic, don’t you? If there are ghosts then that means we survive death.” When King responded with the question of how hell fit into that picture, Kubrick simply responded, “I don’t believe in hell.”

5. ...Then King didn’t even like the movie.

King told Playboy in 1983, “I’d admired Kubrick for a long time and had great expectations for the project, but I was deeply disappointed in the end result. Parts of the film are chilling, charged with a relentlessly claustrophobic terror, but others fell flat.”

He didn’t like the casting of Jack Nicholson either, claiming, “Jack Nicholson, though a fine actor, was all wrong for the part. His last big role had been in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and between that and the manic grin, the audience automatically identified him as a loony from the first scene. But the book is about Jack Torrance’s gradual descent into madness through the malign influence of the Overlook—if the guy is nuts to begin with, then the entire tragedy of his downfall is wasted.”

6. He hired his family.

The Making of THE SHINING by paget76

The executive producer of the film was Kubrick’s brother-in-law, Jan Harlan. Christiane Kubrick and Vivian Kubrick, his wife and daughter respectively, helped with both the design and the music—though Vivian might be more well-known for the on-set documentary that she made titled, The Making Of The Shining. The 30-minute film, which aired on the BBC, was a very rare look into Kubrick’s directing styles. You can watch it above.

7. Kubrick wasn’t there for location shoots.

Kubrick hated to fly and refused to leave England towards the end of his life—so he was not in attendance when the opening credits of The Shining were shot. A second unit crew headed to Glacier National Park in Montana where they filmed from a helicopter.

8. Room 217 was switched to Room 237 at the request of The Timberline Lodge.

In the book, the spooky events are set in Room 217, not Room 237. The Timberline Lodge, which was used as the hotel’s exterior for some shots, is to blame for this swap. The Lodge’s management asked for the room number to be changed so that guests wouldn’t avoid Room 217. There is no Room 237 in the hotel, so that number was chosen. The website of The Timberline Lodge notes, “Curiously and somewhat ironically, room #217 is requested more often than any other room at Timberline.”

9. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” has many different translations.

The iconic sentence actually changes meaning for foreign translations of the film, at Kubrick’s request. In German versions, the phrase translates to: “Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” The Spanish translation is: “Although one will rise early, it won’t dawn sooner.” In Italian: “He who wakes up early meets a golden day.”

10. There’s a legend that Kubrick actually typed all of those “All Work” pages.

No one is quite sure whether Kubrick typed 500 pages of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Kubrick didn’t go to the prop department with this task, using his own typewriter to make the pages. It was a typewriter that had built-in memory, so it could have turned out the pages without an actual person. But the individual pages in the film contain different layouts and mistakes. Some claim that it would have been characteristic of the director to individually prepare each page. Alas, we’ll never know—Kubrick never addressed this question before he died.

11. There’s a hidden Playgirl Magazine in the film.

The Shining, Warner Bros

Kubrick is famous for being a particularly detail-oriented director. So when Jack Torrance is seen reading a Playgirl in the lobby of the Overlook before he gets hired, it’s probably not meaningless. There is an article in the issue about incest, so the most common theory is that Kubrick was subtly implying that Danny may have experienced sexual abuse. Another article advertised on the cover is “Interview: The Selling of (Starsky & Hutch’s) David Soul.” Perhaps Kubrick was throwing in some extra foreshadowing. Regardless, no normal hotel leaves copies of Playgirl lying around, so the magazine serves as an immediate red flag in the film.

12. Dan Lloyd, who played Danny in the film, has only been in this film.

The Shining seemed to introduce a promising child star in Dan Lloyd. He ended up having a role in a TV film two years later, but that was the extent of his acting career. “We kept trying for several years ... until I was in high school and I stopped at about 14 with almost no success," he told the New York Daily News.

13. Young Dan Lloyd didn’t know he was filming a horror movie.

To protect Dan, who was 5 when he made the film, Kubrick told him that they were filming a drama. He didn’t even see the actual film until he was 16. He said later, “I just personally don’t find it scary because I saw it behind the scenes. I know it might be kind of ironic, but I like funny films and documentaries.”

14. Jack Nicholson improvised the line, “Heeeere’s Johnny.”

Jack Nicholson is responsible for the only line from The Shining to make it onto AFI’s Top 100 Movie Quotes. While filming the scene in which Jack breaks down a bathroom door with an axe, Nicholson shouted out the famous Ed McMahon line from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The catch phrase worked and stayed in the film. Some behind-the-scenes footage, which can be seen here, shows Nicholson’s method acting before filming the iconic scene.

15. Jack Nicholson wrote a scene.

In addition to improvising one of the most famous lines of the film, Nicholson actually wrote an entire scene. He felt a particularly deep understanding of Jack Torrance's berating of his wife while he’s trying to write.

In an interview with the New York Times, Nicholson explained, “That’s what I was like when I got my divorce. I was under the pressure of being a family man with a daughter and one day I accepted a job to act in a movie in the daytime and I was writing a movie at night and I’m back in my little corner and my beloved wife Sandra, walked in on what was unbeknownst to her, this maniac—and I told Stanley about it and we wrote it into the scene.”

16. Shelley Duvall and Stanley Kubrick did not get along.

Though he had a good relationship with Nicholson, Kubrick was notoriously brutal on Shelley Duvall during filming. In her words, “From May until October I was really in and out of ill health because the stress of the role was so great. Stanley pushed me and prodded me further than I’ve ever been pushed before. It’s the most difficult role I’ve ever had to play.” The scene in which Wendy is swinging a bat at Jack is an example of this pushing. The scene actually made it into The Guinness Book of Records because it took 127 takes, the most for a scene with spoken dialogue.

17. Slim Pickens was offered the role of Dick Hallorann.

Pickens had already worked with Kubrick before. He played Major T. J. King Kong in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Regardless, he was a particularly strange pick for the role of Dick Hallorann because the character is black in the book. Pickens chose to not work with Kubrick again, as he did not like the strenuous Dr. Strangelove shoots. The role then went to Scatman Crothers.

18. The Overlook Hotel doesn’t make sense spatially.

Observant Shining fan Rob Ager noticed that there are many aspects to the set of The Overlook Hotel that make no sense. For example, Ullman’s office has a window to outside, but there are rooms surrounding the office, making that window impossible. This is the case for many of the windows in the film—they don’t work in context. There is also a hallway in the Colorado Lounge that essentially appears out of nowhere. Ager created a video in which he maps out the nonsensical visuals.

The executive producer of The Shining, Jan Harlan, has stated that this was intentional. “The interiors don’t make sense," he said in 2012. "Those huge corridors and ballrooms couldn’t fit inside. In fact, nothing makes sense.”

19. Much of the set burned down.

Toward the end of shooting, a fire broke out and destroyed multiple sets. According to the set still photographer, “It was a huge fire in there one night, massive fire, we never really discovered what caused that fire and it burned down two soundstages and threatened a third at Elstree Studios. It was an eleven alarm fire call, it was huge.” The rebuild of one of these soundstages cost an estimated $2.5 million.

There’s a famous picture of Kubrick laughing in front of this wreckage. Perhaps he’s laughing because he knows the novel ends with The Overlook Hotel burning down.

20. Nine hundred tons of salt were used to make the film.

And that was just for the final scene! At the end of The Shining, Jack chases young Danny through a snow-covered hedge maze before finally dying. To create the elaborate, wintery maze, it took a lot of salt and crushed Styrofoam.

21. The film took five years to make.

Kubrick is notorious for his lengthy film productions. Sources differ on how long shooting itself lasted, but it probably went on for almost a year. Around the time he was making the film, Kubrick said, “There is a wonderful suggestive timeliness [that the structure] of making a movie imposes on your life. I’m doing exactly the same as I was doing when I was eighteen and making my first movie. It frees you from any other sense of time.”

22. There is an original, different ending.

It’s not uncommon for a film’s ending to change in post-production, but Kubrick changed the ending of the film after it had been playing in theaters for a weekend. The film version is lost, but pages from the screenplay do exist. The scene takes place after Jack dies in the snow. Ullman visits Wendy in the hospital. He tells her, “About the things you saw at the hotel. [A lieutenant] told me they’ve really gone over the place with a fine tooth comb and they didn’t find the slightest evidence of anything at all out of the ordinary.” He also encourages Wendy and Danny to stay with him for a while. The film ends with text over black, “The Overlook Hotel would survive this tragedy, as it had so many others. It is still open each year from May 20th to September 20th. It is closed for the winter.”

Roger Ebert deemed the cut a good decision. According to him, “Kubrick was wise to remove that epilogue ... it pulled one rug too many out from under the story.”

23. It was Kubrick’s next film after his worst-received film, Barry Lyndon.

Things weren’t looking good for Kubrick after Barry Lyndon was released in 1975. Film reviewer Tim Robey notes, “It was not the commercial success Warner Bros had been hoping for.” The film cost $11 million to make and earned $9.5 million in the United States, though it did have a good life in foreign box offices. According to Hughes, the film would have had to earn $30 million to be profitable.

The Shining did a lot better financially. The film cost $19 million to make and it went on to earn $47 million in the United States. It was one the top ten highest-grossing films of 1980.

24. It has inspired many conspiracy theories.

So many film theorists have their own takes on The Shining that these conspiracies star in their own film: the documentary Room 237. One theory is that Kubrick helped to fake the moon landing and The Shining is his confession. Another claims that the film is truly about the genocide of Native Americans. Yet another theory reads the film as a story about the Holocaust and concentration camps.

Leon Vitali, Kubrick’s personal assistant during filming, has since denied these theories. He says of the documentary, “I was falling about laughing most of the time. There are ideas espoused in the movie that I know to be total balderdash.”

25. Its most famous fan site is run by Toy Story 3 director, Lee Unkrich.

Unkrich runs The Overlook Hotel, which contains tons of pictures and behind-the-scenes information about the film. “I started the site purely for selfish reasons," he said. "I’ve been collecting stuff from The Shining over the years, and I just wanted to have one place where they could be organized.” Unkrich was also one of the people who helped fund the Room 237 documentary.

But, undeniably the most fun part about Unkrich’s Shining obsession is finding the hidden references in Toy Story 3. Sid’s carpet is very similar to a carpet in the Overlook Hotel. A garbage truck’s license plate reads “RM237.” And Trixie chats online with a dinosaur toy down the street who happens to have the screen name “Velocistar237.”

Primary image courtesy of Movie Posters 

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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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