"I Would’ve Married Her In A Heartbeat": Astronaut Sally Ride As Seen Through Her Partner’s Eyes

In an interview with Windy City Times this week, Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy opened up about her relationship with the first American woman in space.

1. As the first American woman in space, astronaut Sally Ride lived her life in the public eye. It wasn’t until after her death this year that we learned she shared her life with her partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, for nearly 27 years.

Nasa / Reuters

2. Ride’s obituary simply stated that she was “survived by Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years.”

President Obama presented O’Shaughnessy with the Presidential Medal of Freedom this November. O’Shaughnessy was one of the first people to accept the award on behalf of a deceased same-sex partner.

Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press / MCT

3. In an interview this week, O’Shaughnessy opened up about her experiences with Sally Ride as childhood friends, business partners, and eventually a devoted couple.

4. They met, around the age of twelve, while playing tennis.

Ride is pictured on the far left.

5. O’Shaughnessy admitted that because the two were childhood friends, it was “a big surprise” when they became romantically involved.

6. The pair started seeing each other after Ride’s historic NASA flight in 1983. O’Shaughnessy claims that her partner never let her astounding accomplishments go to her head.

7. She wanted to lead a normal life, not one of a celebrity:

She just thrived on having a home life where she could get away from work, get away from any of the demands of celebrity, and just be a normal person—play catch in the back yard, go for walks, go to the grocery store. She liked doing all that stuff herself. So I think it was just her nature.

8. Sharing a love of science, the couple published several books together.


9. O’Shaughnessy also acted as COO and Executive Vice President of Sally Ride’s foundation, named Sally Ride Science.

10. Balancing both a professional and personal relationship proved difficult at times.

Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

11. According to O’Shaughnessy, Ride never verbally told her family that she was gay – or even that they were a couple.

“Sally easily could have told her a long time ago, and Joyce Ride would not have cared, she would not have blinked. But it just shows how strong Sally’s sense of privacy was, and also I think fear.”

12. That isn’t to say their relationship was a secret. They went everywhere, and did everything, together.

So over the almost three decades, I was really part of the Ride family. And her parents are really smart—especially her mother and her sister—they knew a long time ago that we were a couple. And her mother is very progressive.

13. And Ride never concerned herself with what others thought of their relationship.

NASA / Reuters

14. Ride would introduce O’Shaughnessy to friends and colleagues as her partner, mate, or simply with, “This is Tam.”

15. O’Shaughnessy admitted that she herself was usually more nervous about others opinions.

16. O’Shaughnessy never got the chance to marry her partner of so many years, though she would have “in a heartbeat”.

NASA photo / Via

17. O’Shaughnessy was by Ride’s side throughout her 17-month battle with cancer. She did, however, find comfort in the overwhelming outpouring of support and positivity following her passing.

AP Photo/Debra Reid, File / Via

18. Read the full interview here.

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Sarah Karlan is the Deputy LGBT Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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