(1951 – 2012)
Her mark on history: First American woman in space
How life would be different without her: Sally Ride showed millions of little girls that their dreams of being an astronaut were just as valid as their brothers’. But before her historic flight in 1983, she had to put up with a lot of sexism. At a press conference, reporters asked Ride if she cried when things went wrong on the job, and whether space flight would “affect her reproductive organs.” (She acerbically responded, “there’s no evidence of that.”)
It wasn’t until after Ride’s death that the world found out that besides being the first woman, Ride may have been the first LGBT person in space. After her 2012 death from pancreatic cancer, her obituary revealed her 27-year relationship with partner Tam O’Shaughnessy.
Her words to live by: “Studying whether there’s life on Mars or studying how the universe began, there’s something magical about pushing back the frontiers of knowledge,” she said in a 2003 interview with NPR.