In June 1983, just 17 days before she became the first American woman to launch into space, Sally Ride joined then-President Ronald Reagan for a walk on the White House North Lawn. Now, 40 years later, the two will "meet" again, albeit in a different, but no less prestigious courtyard.
A life-size statue of the astronaut is set to be unveiled at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. The reveal, at the entrance to the outdoor Peace Plaza, is part of the festivities planned for the Reagan Presidential Foundation's annual Fourth of July celebration at 12:00 p.m. PDT (1900 GMT) on Tuesday, July 4.
"When unveiled, this statue will be a wonderful addition to the grounds of the Reagan Library," Randle Swan, supervisory curator and acting deputy director of the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, told collectSPACE. "Dr. Sally Ride was an American hero and humble pathfinder who sought to expand science and human knowledge."
"The location of her likeness is in full view of the western sky, nestled under some shade trees in full view of the Pacific Ocean and only steps away from the F-117 Stealth and the F-14 [aircraft] on static display," said Swan.
Although still under wraps in California, an identical statue already stands in Garden City, New York. In June 2022, the Cradle of Aviation Museum revealed the monument to Ride created by Colorado-based sculptors and brothers George and Mark Lundeen, working with fellow artist Joey Bainer.
The statue depicts Ride in the inflight coveralls that she wore on the space shuttle Challenger to become America's first female astronaut and only the third woman in the world to launch into space on June 18, 1983. The bronze sculpture captures Ride stepping forward while she holds up a model of her winged spacecraft.
Though Ride never visited the Cradle of Aviation, the shuttle's wings and flight controls surfaces were built by Grumman (today Northrop Grumman) in nearby Bethpage, New York. In California, the connection to Ride is both it being her home state and that Reagan was president when she made her two spaceflights.
"You and that white spacecraft you fly represent the hope of the future," said Reagan, addressing Ride and her four STS-7 crewmates as they took part in a press conference at the White House on June 1, 1983.
According to a plaque installed alongside the new statue, the tribute to Ride at the Reagan Library was sponsored by a number of donors, including Northrop Grumman, the former First Lady of California Maria Shriver, the family of the late Mercury and Gemini astronaut Gordon Cooper and Ride's family (Ride died of pancreatic cancer in 2012 at the age of 61).
The statue is the is the fourth astronaut tribute created by the Lundeen brothers and the third made in collaboration with Steven Barber, a documentary filmmaker who championed the project. The artists previously created a statue of Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert for the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol, a monument to Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins that stands at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the statues of Apollo 13 crewmates Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Swigert on display at Space Center Houston.
Duplicate Swigert and Apollo 11 statues are also installed at Denver International Airport in Colorado and Appleton International Airport in Wisconsin, respectively.
The July 4 unveiling is open to the public and will include live music and remarks.
In addition to the Lundeen sculptures, a bust of Ride has been at the science center at Santiago Canyon College in Orange, California since 2017.