US: Navy christens ship after ‘first lesbian astronaut’ Sally Ride
The US Navy has christened a ship after astronaut Sally Ride, at a ceremony attended by her female partner.
Ride entered space on the Challenger shuttle in June 1983, becoming the first American woman and youngest ever American to do so.
Following Ride’s death in 2012, it was made public that the former NASA astronaut had been in a secret 27-year relationship with female partner Tam O’Shaughnessy, and she has been posthumously referred to as the first lesbian astronaut.
Dr O’Shaughnessy attended the ceremony in Anacortes, Washington on Saturday to launch the Navy’s new auxiliary general oceanographic research vessel, christened the Sally Ride.
Before striking the bow, O’Shaughnessy said:”For the United States of America, I christen thee ‘Sally Ride’. May God bless this ship and all who sail in her.”
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said: “For decades to come, the men and women who will man this ship will look past the horizon, beyond man-made boundaries, searching, learning, and honoring the pioneer [it] is named after – the great Sally Ride.”
Ride’s sister, Dr Bear Ride, also attended the ceremony, alongside Kathryn Sullivan, the first American woman to conduct a spacewalk.
Ride’s biographer said in June: “There is no question in my mind that if Sally Ride had been openly gay and if she had applied to NASA, number one, she never would have been selected as an astronaut.
“Number two, she never would have flown and number three, she never would have been the first American woman in space.”
Lesbians were not permitted in the Navy until the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in 2011.
Sally Ride passed away in July 2012, aged 61, following a two-year battle pancreatic cancer.