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Wikimedia Commons // Public domain 
Wikimedia Commons // Public domain 

9 Facts You Should Know About Maggie Hassan

Wikimedia Commons // Public domain 
Wikimedia Commons // Public domain 

Maggie Hassan is the newest member of New Hampshire’s all-female (and all-Democratic) congressional delegation. The junior senator previously served as governor of the Granite State before entering national politics. Read on for nine facts you should know about Maggie Hassan.

1. HER FATHER WORKED FOR JFK AND LBJ.

Maggie Hassan was born Margaret Wood in 1958. She grew up in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., with excursions to her mother’s family’s summer home in Rhode Island. Her mother, Margaret Byers Wood, was a teacher, while her father, Robert Coldwell Wood, was a political science professor at MIT when Hassan was born, and their family lived in the wealthy Boston suburb of Lincoln.

While running for the presidency in 1960, John F. Kennedy reached out to Robert Wood for guidance on urban issues, and Wood wrote him a campaign speech about the needs of the American city. In 1966, Wood took the position of Under Secretary of the then-new Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Lyndon Johnson, and moved his family to D.C. Hassan and her two siblings, Frank and Franny, attended elementary school in D.C. and then moved back to Lincoln with their parents in 1969 after Robert Wood finished his tenure at HUD and returned to academic work in Boston. He soon became the president of the University of Massachusetts.

A friend of Hassan’s from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School told New Hampshire Public Radio that the family was a bit intimidating: “I mean there were signed pictures of JFK in the study, and they would sit at the dinner table and have conversations about current events.” The Wood siblings remember those conversations well. “There were a lot of interesting people in my house while I was growing up,” Hassan’s brother, Frank, remarked in an interview. “Mostly, I remember listening to all these people, but we were also encouraged to talk and, whether we knew it or not, develop our speaking skills.” Hassan agreed, telling the New Hampshire Union Leader, “My father used to actually go around the table person by person and ask them what they thought, so everybody from family members to our guests were expected to either think out loud or have an opinion, and we did.”

This encouragement to practice their speaking skills served the Wood children well: Hassan entered politics, while Frank became a Broadway actor.

2. A FAMOUS BOARDING SCHOOL BROUGHT HER AND HER HUSBAND TO NEW HAMPSHIRE.

Hassan went on to Brown University, where she met her future husband, Thomas Hassan. He was the son of a butcher [PDF] and a secretary who had attended Brown as an undergraduate and was working at the school at the time he met Maggie. Tom wanted to become a teacher, and he went on to complete his master’s and doctorate in education at Harvard.

The two married in 1983, and while Tom was pursuing his PhD they lived in a freshman dorm at Harvard, where he served as assistant dean of freshmen. Meanwhile, Maggie went to law school nearby at Northeastern University. She graduated in 1985 and started her career as a lawyer in Boston. In 1989, Tom landed a job teaching at the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. He was excited by the opportunity, falling in love with the school when he went to visit, so the couple moved to New Hampshire, where Maggie would launch her political career. Tom later became the principal of Phillips Exeter, and the couple lived on campus for years with their children, Meg and Ben, who both attended the school.

3. HER EXPERIENCE ADVOCATING FOR A SON WITH DISABILITIES LED HER TO POLITICS.

Soon after their first child, Ben, was born, the Hassans learned he had cerebral palsy. Though his mind functions at a high level, Ben cannot speak, walk, or use his hands, and Hassan quickly realized that she and Tom would need to become strong advocates for their son to ensure he received the same opportunities as other children. “Twenty or thirty years earlier we would’ve been pressured to put him in an institution,” Hassan noted in a campaign ad. Ben’s parents wanted him to have access to a mainstream education, so they sent him to public school, beginning with preschool at age 3. When the bus came to pick Ben up on the first day of preschool and Hassan wheeled him onto the wheelchair lift and watched him leave with the other children, she reflected on the work others had done in the past, telling Roll Call, “That really got me focused on the work that other families and advocates and elected leaders had done so that, on that day, my son wasn’t in an institution. He was going to school and he was having a chance to learn and make friends.”

But there was still a lot of work to be done. Hassan had to fight to get Ben’s elementary school to adjust to his needs, and in doing so, she became more and more involved in disability-rights activism, all while working as a lawyer and raising Ben and his younger sister, Meg. “I ended up advocating a lot locally, and then at the State House,” she told NH1. Her activism caught the eye of Jeanne Shaheen, then the governor of New Hampshire, who appointed Hassan to a state commission on education in 1999. In 2002, state Democrats encouraged Hassan to run for the New Hampshire Senate, but she worried about juggling a campaign with her law practice and family responsibilities. Tom recalled to NH1, “[S]he came up with all the reasons why it would be really hard and I said to her, ‘You’d be great at it.’” So she ran. And lost.

But in 2004 Hassan ran again, against the same Republican incumbent who had beat her two years prior, and this time she won. Hassan would serve three consecutive terms in the state Senate, becoming assistant Democratic whip, president pro tempore, and finally majority leader over the course of six years.

“I don't think I would have run for office if I hadn’t been Ben's mother,” Hassan told NH1. She also told Refinery 29, “Our family was able to thrive because of all the people who fought to bring people like Ben in from the margins. That inspired me to advocate for others, and it was one of the reasons I ran for the state Senate and then for governor, and now for the United States Senate.”

4. SHE PASSED LAWS TO KEEP KIDS IN SCHOOL LONGER.

During her time as a state senator, Hassan also helped pass legislation mandating universal public kindergarten across the state. From 1988 until the bill took effect in 2009, New Hampshire was the only state without universal kindergarten. But the state constitution requires New Hampshire to provide an “adequate education” for its children, so in 2007, the legislature passed a bill defining an “adequate education” as including kindergarten, thus requiring all school districts to offer at least half-day kindergarten.

During the same legislative session, Hassan sponsored legislation raising the legal age at which children can drop out of school. New Hampshire had originally set the age limit at 16 in 1903, and over a century later, Hassan and others pushed that limit to 18, hoping a change in the law would lower drop-out rates. The law seems to have been successful: The state drop-out rate has declined by over 50% since it was passed, leaving New Hampshire with one of the lowest drop-out rates in the nation [PDF].

5. SHE HELPED LEGALIZE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE.

In 2008, Hassan was appointed Senate majority leader by the president of the New Hampshire Senate, Democrat Sylvia Larsen. Larsen told the Boston Globe that she chose Hassan over other, more senior politicians because “She was a powerhouse” who could drive the other Democrats into line while Larsen worked across the aisle.

Hassan’s forceful leadership was perhaps most obvious in 2009, when she became determined to pass legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in New Hampshire—and had to convince other Democrats, who were worried voters weren’t comfortable with the idea. In 2009, Democrats controlled both houses of the New Hampshire legislature as well as the governor’s office, and Hassan wanted to take advantage of that opportunity. Over the course of six months, she presented to the legislature three different versions of a bill recognizing same-sex marriage, tweaking the language as she went along to earn more supporters. Another Democrat who originally opposed the bill later told New Hampshire Public Radio, “Maggie was very constructive in getting us to a place where the language of the bill was refined, and making sure that other Senators were comfortable with the language.” Hassan negotiated successfully, but did so quietly. She did not publicize her stance on the bill at the time, telling The New York Times in April 2009 that Senate Democrats “like to talk to each other and hear each others’ thoughts out as well, and we try to do that privately.”

The third version of the bill recognizing same-sex marriage narrowly passed both houses of the New Hampshire legislature, and on June 3, 2009, Governor John Lynch signed it into law. Though Hassan didn’t take credit at the time, others later revealed that she was the driving force behind the bill. Larsen told The Atlantic that while some senators thought the bill was ahead of public opinion, Hassan convinced them that “the time was right and we should do it because it’s the right thing.”

6. SHE HELPED PASS CONNOR’S LAW.

In 2010, Hassan used her position as chair of the state Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Labor and Consumer Protection to pass legislation requiring insurance companies to expand coverage of autism therapies. The bill, known as Connor’s Law, mandates coverage of medically necessary treatment programs, such as applied behavioral analysis, speech therapy, and physical and occupational therapy.

7. SHE WAS JUST ONE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE’S HISTORY-MAKING WOMEN IN 2012.

Tim Pierce via Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

After six years in the state Senate, Hassan was ousted in autumn 2010 by the same man she’d originally won her seat from—Republican Russell Prescott. Republican support surged across the country that year, and New Hampshire was no different, with the GOP gaining control of the state Senate. But in 2011, when Democratic governor John Lynch announced he would not be seeking reelection, Hassan saw an opportunity and threw her hat into the ring. She won the 2012 gubernatorial election by over 80,000 votes, carrying all of New Hampshire’s 10 counties.

And the 2012 election was historic for New Hampshire: Two female Democratic candidates ousted the state’s incumbent GOP Congressmen, joining Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte to make up the first-ever all-female congressional delegation from any state. With four women in Congress and Hassan elected the second female governor, New Hampshire entered an unprecedented era of female leadership.

8. SHE BANNED DISCRIMINATION AGAINST TRANS PEOPLE.

Hassan used her power as governor to issue an executive order in June 2016 banning discrimination in state government against transgender people. Expanding New Hampshire’s existing non-discrimination regulations, the order prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and expression in government hiring, in the administration of state programs, and by private contractors employed by the state.

9. HER NAME CAUSES CONFUSION.

Dennis David Auger via Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

Hassan’s spokesman explained that her surname is pronounced “HASS-in, sounds like fasten.” But because it’s spelled the same as a common Arabic name pronounced Huh-SAHN, Maggie Hassan frequently has her last name mispronounced—including during her swearing in for her second term as governor and when she was mentioned in a prompt on Jeopardy. During her Senate campaign, she even faced a raft of negative campaign mailers from a group called One Nation, ads which the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations claimed exploited her “Arab and Muslim-sounding name” by connecting her to the threat of “Radical Islamic terrorists.” The group who sent out the fliers said that they were not insinuating Hassan was Muslim but simply highlighting her support for the Obama administration’s deal with Iran, and that they sent out the fliers about other Democratic candidates as well.

But that wasn’t the first time the Hassans encountered suspicion about their name. Far-right internet commenters charged that Tom Hassan had allowed “radical Islamists” to speak at Phillips Exeter and speculated that he was secretly Muslim himself. (He’s not.)

To clear up any confusion: Hassan is an Irish surname. It’s the Anglicized version of the Gaelic Ó hOsáin, which means “descendant of Osán.” The name Osán is itself a diminutive of the Gaelic word os, meaning “deer.”

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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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