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Sally Ride research ship begins first journey

Sally Ride communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck during the six-day mission in Challenger in 1983. The R/V Sally Ride is the U.S.'s first academic research vessel named after a woman. Photo: NASA.

Sally Ride communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck during the six-day mission in Challenger in 1983. The R/V Sally Ride is the U.S.’s first academic research vessel named after a woman. Photo: NASA.

SAN DIEGO – The U.S.’s first academic research vessel named after a woman – who also was a lesbian – leaves San Diego today on its first voyage.

During its 17-day expedition along the California Current, the researchers aboard the R/V Sally Ride, named for the first female American astronaut in space, will study how marine life interact with their habit and how human behavior effects those animals, according to a press release from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the UC San Diego, which operates the vessel. The $89 million, 238-foot long ship is owned by the U.S. Navy.

RESEARCH MISSION

Researchers also hope to forecast how those changes in marine life would impact a variety of industries, including fishing operations.

Long term, the seagoing scientists hope to break new ground by discovering sea compounds that can be turned into life-saving drugs and enhancing their understanding of the consequences of human caused globe warming, the release said.

RIDE’S ACHIEVEMENTS

Ride was a member of the UC San Diego physics faculty. She made history in 1983 when she became the first American female astronaut to travel to space aboard Space Shuttle Challenger. In 1989, she joined the UC San Diego faculty as a professor of physics and served as director of UC’s California Space Institute from 1989 to 1996.

Ride died from pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012, at the age of 61.

‘SHE’D BE THRILLED’

Ride was not out to the public in her lifetime, but her obituary mentioned her girlfriend of more than 20 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy.

“I think she’d be thrilled,” O’Shaughnessy told the San Diego Union-Tribune, regarding the ship being named for Ride. “There are so many connections — Scripps and being female and having the first academic research vessel being named after a woman. That’s just keeping with what she was all about her whole life.”

“She probably would want to sign up for an expedition,” O’Shaughnessy said.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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