Reagan Library unveils statue of Sally Ride, debuts song to honor 1st American woman in space

a crowd of people admire a bronze statue of sally ride with a tree and an american flag in the background
With her mother, sister and other family members surrounding, a statue of Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, was unveiled at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. (Image credit: Reagan Library)

Sally Ride, America's first woman in space, now stands tall on the grounds of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California, where a statue of her was unveiled Tuesday (July 4) as a part of an Independence Day celebration.

Members of the Ride family, including her 99-year-old mother, Joyce, helped to reveal the larger-than-life tribute, which is backdropped by the rolling hills of Simi Valley, at the entrance to the library's outdoor Peace Plaza.

"It's with great joy and a profound sense of gratitude that the Ride family joins you in celebrating the unveiling of Sally today. As her younger sister, I've always had a sense that she was seven feet tall, and now I have proof," said Karen "Bear" Ride to the small crowd that had gathered around the statue. "But here we are, looking down over our old home in the San Fernando Valley, remembering her, celebrating the fact that Sally was a trailblazer and to many a hero."

The bronze sculpture captures Ride in mid step, as she reaches out with her right arm to lift a scale model of the space shuttle Challenger into the air. She is depicted as she was 40 years ago, dressed in the NASA coveralls and flight jacket that she wore for her first launch.

Related: Biography of Sally Ride, the 1st American woman in space

"In a space agency filled with trailblazers, Sally Ride was a pioneer of a different sort," David Trulio, president and chief executive officer of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, said. "This California native broke the gender barrier on June 18, 1983, when she became the first American woman in space while rocketing on Challenger's STS-7 mission with four male crewmates."

Ride's history-making mission — and her second spaceflight, which followed the year later — took place during Reagan's time as president. She met him with him before and after she flew, and was later appointed by Reagan to the commission that investigated the 1986 tragedy that claimed Challenger and its seven-member STS-51L crew just 73 seconds into flight.

"Reagan was a strong advocate for space exploration his entire presidency, recognizing its importance not just for scientific discovery and technological advancement, but also for global leadership and national pride," said Trulio. "Reagan believed that America had a unique responsibility to explore the frontiers of space and that doing so would inspire future generations and advance the cause of human progress."

"It is for these reasons and more that we are so honored to be unveiling the statue of Sally Ride on our campus today," he said.

The statue of Sally Ride, America's first woman in space, after its unveiling at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Tues., July 4, 2023. (Image credit: National Archives)

In addition to the statue, the event also included the debut of a song dedicated to Ride. Fourteen-year-old Alexis Silva, whose father Izzy was the lead donor to the statue's placement at the library, performed her new single "Meant To Fly," which opens with the words, "I can feel the ground around me shaking, the numbers counting down to one, I know there is something out there waiting, somewhere closer to the sun."

Silva wrote the song with Damon Elliott, an Academy Award-nominated record producer and the son of Grammy Award-winning singer Dionne Warwick. Elliott also helped underwrite the statue through his KIND Music Academy, where Silva is a student.

"We will be releasing the song middle to the end of this month," said Elliott. "We hope that the Ride family enjoys what we have presented for you."

Additional support for the statue came from activist Gloria Steinem, the Northrop Grumman Foundation, former first lady of California Maria Shriver and the family of Mercury and Gemini astronaut Gordon Cooper, among others.

President Ronald Reagan walks with astronaut Sally Ride and her crewmates across the White House North Lawn on June 1, 1983, 17 days before the STS-7 launch. (Image credit: National Archives)

The statue was created by Colorado-based sculptors and brothers George and Mark Lundeen, working with fellow artist Joey Bainer. The same artists previously produced a statue of Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert for 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 statues of Apollo 13 crewmates James Lovell, Fred Haise and Swigert on display at Space Center Houston.

Duplicates of the Swigert and Apollo 11 statues are at Denver International Airport in Colorado and Appleton International Airport in Wisconsin, respectively.

The Ride statue at the Reagan Library is also a copy. An identical monument was unveiled at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York in 2022.

"The world lost Sally to pancreatic cancer [11] years ago, but we did not lose her spirit. In fact, her spirit grows daily," said Steven Barber, a documentary filmmaker who led the campaign to place both Ride statues. "Sally Ride is not just one monument, but she is two monuments, and her legend is growing exponentially every single day."

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.