Sally Ride, who joined NASA in 1978, became at age 32 the first American woman in space. She had answered an ad in the Stanford Daily seeking applicants for the space program. Her first two flights were aboard the Challenger shuttle in 1983 and 1984; it tragically crashed in 1986. She served on the panel that investigated the accident. She remains the youngest American astronaut to be launched into space. Eileen Malloy was head of the Consulate in Calgary in 1984; she was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning in November 2008.
MALLOY: One of the high points of my time in Calgary was getting to meet Sally Ride, America’s first female astronaut. The Calgary Stampede Committee had invited Sally Ride to participate in the annual Calgary Stampede Parade as the Grand Parade Marshal.
I was the acting Consul General at that time so it fell to me to escort her to the Stampede activities. I helped her get geared up for the Parade by getting her one of the Stampede White Stetson cowboy hats issued by the Parade Committee to all VIPs. They were kind enough to give me one as well – I still have it to this day. I asked how we would be able to make sure that her hat did not go astray. The Parade official smiled and had me turn the hat over to find a large card inside the brim. The card said in bold letters “Like Hell this is your hat! This hat belongs to _____”, he encouraged me to fill in Sally Ride’s name ASAP before the hat was appropriated by some other guest.
After the parade I escorted Sally Ride to the Parade reception/luncheon and we had a chance to talk about our respective jobs. She told me that she needed to leave the Stampede celebrations early and would not be able to remain in Calgary in order to watch any of the Stampede events. Her then husband was scheduled to fly in the space shuttle the following day and she wanted to be at NASA’s Space Center during the take-off.
I offered to set up a video connection so she could watch from Calgary but she insisted that she needed to be on hand. She was clearly nervous about the launch, which surprised me. Only later after the Challenger disaster did I realize that the Space Shuttle flights were not as safe and as routine as we civilians had come to believe they were after so many successful flights.
I followed her wishes and went off to inform the Stampede Committee that their VIP guest had to depart earlier than planned. They were disappointed but gracious about the change in plans.