Sally Ride Talks Space in Dazzling Animated Interview

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, answered a lot of dumb questions from the media — and in this beautifully animated audio interview with Gloria Steinem, she discusses her responses, the future of spaceflight and what she felt during launch.

The two women recorded the interview only months after Ride flew to space on June 18, 1983, and it was discovered in a collection of Steinem's papers at Smith College. The interview comes courtesy of "Blank on Blank," a PBS series that animates lost interviews with iconic figures — and the illustrated result is just dazzling.

The first woman in space was the Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963. Ride joined the first astronaut class to include women, in 1978, and was the first of them to fly. Ride was highly trained and prepared for her role as a mission specialist aboard the Challenger space shuttle, but found the media spotlight overwhelming: "Without a doubt, I think the worst question that I've gotten was whether I cried when we got malfunctions in the simulator," she told Steinem in the interview. And don't even get her started about the bra question.

Ride flew on a second Challdenger mission in 1984, where she operated the shuttle's robotic arm to adjust a radar antenna and clear ice off the shuttle.

After her NASA career, she continued as a researcher at Stanford University and then at the University of California, San Diego. As detailed in's interview with Ride's partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaugnessy, Ride also became deeply involved in bringing science to a young audience, authoring several science books through children and encouraging even more through the company she and O'Shaugnessy founded, Sally Ride Science. (Plus, she was president of from 1999 to 2000.)

Ride's interview is the first of four in Blank on Blank's series "The Experimenters," which features rare interviews from innovators in science and technology. The episode's animation director discussed bringing the interview to life on Blank on Blank's website — depicting Ride's experiences and her love of science and space travel.

As Ride puts it in the interview: "Roughly half the people in the world would love to be astronauts, would give anything to trade places with you, and the other half just can't understand why in the world you would do something that stupid."

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Sarah Lewin
Associate Editor

Sarah Lewin started writing for in June of 2015 as a Staff Writer and became Associate Editor in 2019 . Her work has been featured by Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, Quanta Magazine, Wired, The Scientist, Science Friday and WGBH's Inside NOVA. Sarah has an MA from NYU's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program and an AB in mathematics from Brown University. When not writing, reading or thinking about space, Sarah enjoys musical theatre and mathematical papercraft. She is currently Assistant News Editor at Scientific American. You can follow her on Twitter @SarahExplains.