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15 Fun Facts About the Indiana Jones Movies

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Nearly 35 years ago, in the summer of 1981, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Harrison Ford banded together to introduce moviegoers to a new kind of action hero. In the intervening years, Indiana Jones has made three more big-screen appearances (plus one television series)—with one more film on the way for 2019. In the meantime, we're looking back at the first four films in the series.

1. ONE DOG INSPIRED BOTH INDIANA JONES AND CHEWBACCA.

While developing the film with Spielberg and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, Lucas named the main character “Indiana Smith.” But Spielberg protested that it was too similar to the 1966 Steve McQueen western Nevada Smith and requested a change. The three agreed that the last name should be as universal and nondescript as “Smith,” so Lucas threw out “Jones” as a possibility. Indiana came from Lucas’ dog, an Alaskan malamute named Indiana. The big, hairy pup was also the inspiration for Chewbacca from Star Wars.

2. A RECEPTIONIST AT LUCASFILM HELPED OUT WITH RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK’S SPECIAL EFFECTS.

Advanced CGI was still far off when Spielberg tasked the effects wizards at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) to create the otherworldly elements for his film after the fact. To create the deadly specters that emerge from the Ark, ILM model maker Steve Gawley suspended small puppets with silk robes into a clouded water tank in front of a bluescreen. Puppeteers would shake the model back and forth in the water to achieve the surreal flowing movements Spielberg wanted, which would then be composited onto the actual footage by optical supervisor Bruce Nicholson.

To pull off the effect where an idyllic ghost floats toward the camera, only to reveal a hideous visage, the ILM guys found a receptionist from Lucasfilm and outfitted her in long white robes and painted her face a ghostly shade of blue and white. They then had her sit on a flat trapeze mechanism in front of a bluescreen and swing away from camera—which was run backwards in the final film to achieve a dreamlike quality. The receptionist’s performance was then composited with a grotesque, skeletal model to create the final transformation.

3. THE ACTOR WHO PLAYED SHORT ROUND WAS DISCOVERED BY ACCIDENT.

Spielberg and casting director Mike Fenton were having trouble finding the right young actor for Short Round, so they put out an open casting call at an elementary school in Los Angeles and eventually found actor Ke Huy Quan ... but not directly. Quan’s mother brought in his older brother to read for the part of Short Round, but during the screen test the younger Quan began telling his brother what to do, which caught the eye of producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. They asked him to do his own taped audition for Spielberg. It was so good that they invited the youngster to audition with Indy himself, Harrison Ford.

Because the young would-be actor couldn’t read English very well, Spielberg decided to let him improvise during the audition—similar to the way he found young Henry Thomas for E.T.—telling him to play cards with Ford and gradually realize he had been cheated.

Spielberg said, “I just loved [Quan's] personality. I thought he was like a 50-year-old man trapped in a 12-year-old’s body.” Quan later explained why he was undaunted, despite having no experience, saying, “I didn't know who Steven, George, or Harrison were. I hadn't seen Raiders Of The Lost Ark and I didn't even know this was a sequel. After the shoot, Steven screened all his movies for me.”

4. KATE CAPSHAW’S PRICELESS DRESS WAS EATEN BY AN ELEPHANT ON-SET.

Kate Capshaw's costume had a wild time on set—in particular during one jungle scene that featured a hungry elephant. Willie, Indy, and Short Round are riding an elephant to Pankot Palace, and when they stop to make camp, Willie hangs her dress up to dry. In an unscripted moment, the elephant began eating the custom dress right off of a branch, tearing the entire back off the priceless costume. Costume designer Anthony Powell, who later scrambled to restore the dress by hand, filled out the insurance claim on the garment by stating “Eaten by elephant.”

5. TEMPLE OF DOOM FEATURES ONE OF SPIELBERG’S PERSONAL FAVORITE MOMENTS FROM HIS ENTIRE FILMOGRAPHY.

The scene when the three main characters are on their way to the Temple and get stuck in a booby-trapped room with spikes coming from the ceiling and floor was among the first sequences Spielberg and Lucas came up with for Temple of Doom. According to Spielberg, “For me to be able to turn that idea into something with bugs and a little coda where Willie's butt hits the trigger mechanism so the whole thing begins again, and to have the last shot of Indy reaching in and grabbing his hat just before the secret slab of concrete closes ... that was my favorite thing to shoot on that entire production.”

6. TEMPLE OF DOOM CREATED THE PG-13 RATING.

Think about this: a movie that includes a man pulling the still-beating heart out of another very-much-alive man who is then lowered into a searing pool of lava to die is rated a family-friendly PG by the Motion Picture Association of America. Parents and audience members alike were taken aback by the violence in Spielberg’s second Indiana Jones film, but the violence and horrific aspects weren’t enough to warrant an R rating (one that would cripple a film that relied so heavily on being a family-friendly film).

Once a controversy about the violence in Temple of Doom and Gremlins (a film Spielberg executive produced) arose, Spielberg wrote to Jack Valenti, then-President of the MPAA, suggesting an in-between rating for movies of similar ilk. The director suggested four new potential examples, including “PG-13,” “PG-14,” “PG-2” or “R-13,” which would limit or allow certain audience members admittance between PG and R-rated films. Valenti soon enacted the new system, labeling director John Milius’ film Red Dawn with the first ever PG-13 rating.

7. SPIELBERG MADE INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE TO APOLOGIZE FOR TEMPLE OF DOOM.

After the masterpiece of spirited adventure that was Raiders of the Lost Ark, some critics and audience members felt betrayed by the grim and gruesome sequel. Spielberg was hardly a defender of the movie; in 1989 he admitted, “I wasn't happy with the second film at all. It was too dark, too subterranean, and much too horrific. I thought it out-poltered Poltergeist. There's not an ounce of my own personal feeling in Temple of Doom.

Spielberg’s involvement in a third Indiana Jones film sprang from his desire to apologize to viewers for the series’ disappointing second outing, and to revive the earnest spirit of the original. He re-hired supporting stars Denholm Elliott and John Rhys-Davies to double down on the Raiders ambiance.

8. A RENOWNED PLAYWRIGHT SECRETLY PENNED THE INDY/HENRY MATERIAL. 

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Since the relationship between Indy and his estranged father, played by Sean Connery, provided the emotional meat of the story in The Last Crusade, Spielberg and Lucas hired a ghostwriter to bolster the gravity of the characters’ interactions. Celebrated playwright Tom Stoppard contributed the bulk of the Jones boys’ material, but didn’t receive a writing credit. 

9. FORD AND CONNERY TOOK OFF THEIR PANTS WHILE SHOOTING ONE SCENE. 

A little more than halfway through the film, Indy and Henry converse over a private table while hiding out on a German zeppelin. Unbeknownst to viewers, beneath the table neither Harrison Ford nor Sean Connery is wearing pants. Excessive heat on the set prompted Connery to remove his slacks while shooting the scene, and Ford followed suit. 

10. THE MOVIE HELPED TO PIONEER THE RAT INSURANCE GAME.

The rat-filled subterranean sequence early in the film proved to be a complex problem: the presence of the rodents cost the film its first choice of female lead, Amanda Redman, as she was too afraid to perform alongside the critters. Then, the production team had to breed its own grey rats for the scene—thousands of them—in order to have enough rodent firepower that was definitely disease-free. 

Finally, there was the unprecedented matter of taking out an insurance policy on the unpredictable creatures. After some negotiation, the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company did indeed grant Paramount Pictures the very first (and more than likely last) “thousand-rat insurance policy.” The policy would have paid off if the production had lost more than 1000 of its rodents. 

11. THE DEATH OF WALTER DONOVAN WAS A BENCHMARK IN DIGITAL EFFECTS. 

The rapid degradation of Julian Glover’s villainous character, Walter Donovan, following a sip from a particularly unholy grail (“He chose poorly”) is considered the first complete digital composite shot in Hollywood history. Glover was filmed in several separate stages of the sped-up aging process, which were digitally melded together (along with shots of puppet heads for some of the later stages) and translated back to film as one cohesive take. 

12. THE LAST CRUSADE DID WONDERS FOR PETRA’S TOURIST DRAW. 

After the release of the movie, international interest in Petra—where some of the film's scenes were filmed—skyrocketed. Prior to the film, the city saw only a few thousand visitors every year. That number reached into the millions following Last Crusade’s release. 

13. SHIA LABEOUF WASN'T A FAN OF INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.

Never one to refrain from sticking his foot in his mouth, Shia LaBeouf had some choice words for the fourth entry in the Indiana Jones franchise while at the Cannes Film Festival, telling reporters, “I feel like I dropped the ball on the legacy that people loved and cherished … You get to monkey-swinging and things like that and you can blame it on the writer and you can blame it on Steven [Spielberg, who directed]. But the actor's job is to make it come alive and make it work, and I couldn't do it. So that's my fault. Simple.”

Responding to LaBeouf’s badmouthing of The Crystal Skull, Ford told DETAILS that his young co-star “was a f*cking idiot. As an actor, I think it's my obligation to support the film without making a complete ass of myself.”

14. SEAN CONNERY SAID NO TO A CAMEO IN THE CRYSTAL SKULL.

As tempting as it may have been for Sean Connery to re-team with Ford on The Crystal Skull, the happily retired former James Bond turned down the part.

15. THE CRYSTAL SKULL INSPIRED AN ALTERNATIVE PHRASE TO “JUMP THE SHARK.”

Ever since Henry Winkler attempted to sail over a shark in a late-season episode of Happy Days, the phrase “jump the shark” has been used to describe the point where a television series goes off the rails in its ridiculousness. The Crystal Skull spawned an alternative phrase for that, known as “nuking the fridge.” And Spielberg seemed surprisingly pleased about it.

"What people really jumped at was Indy climbing into a refrigerator and getting blown into the sky by an atom-bomb blast,” Spielberg told CNN. “Blame me. Don't blame George. That was my silly idea. People stopped saying 'jump the shark.' They now say, 'nuked the fridge.' I'm proud of that. I'm glad I was able to bring that into popular culture.”

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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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