“Without a doubt, I think the worst question I have gotten was whether I cried when we got malfunctions in the simulator.” – Sally Ride, 1983
On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space when the space shuttle Challenger launched on mission STS-7. Following her history-making flight, Sally was interviewed by Gloria Steinem about the enormity of what she had accomplished, and the pressure and special brand of scrutiny she faced from the media. The tape of their lost conversation, which was found in a Smith College archive, has been remixed and animated into this 4-minute video to give it new life in 2016.
As one of the three mission specialists on that STS-7 mission in 1983, Sally Ride “played a vital role in helping the crew deploy communications satellites, conduct experiments and make use of the first Shuttle Pallet Satellite.” Because of the significance of her history-making mission, Sally was thrown into the media spotlight with no preparation, and learned very quickly that while NASA “appeared to be very enlightened about flying women astronauts, the press didn’t appear to be.”
They were concerned with nothing that Sally was… they asked her about using the bathroom, what type of makeup she was taking up into space, and whether she cried when her crew experienced malfunctions in the simulator. They even debated among themselves if she’d need to wear a bra in zero gravity. What the press didn’t care about was that Sally Ride was prepared to do her job.
At this same time, Gloria Steinem had an ABC interview series, called “In Conversation with…” As part of that program she interviewed Sally Ride following her game-chagning mission. The tape of their conversation was found in Smith College’s archive dedicated to the life and work of Steinem – The Gloria Steinem Papers, part of the Sophia Smith Collection. It has been beautifully repurposed in video form and published just yesterday by PBS Digital Studio’s Blank on Blank, a programming platform that remixes vintage interview tapes with new animations, so journalists’ unheard interviews with cultural icons can be transformed and brought back to life.