Two women pioneers of flight now have places of honor on Pluto, thanks to the International Astronomical Union and the team behind NASA’s New Horizons mission.
The IAU has formally approved naming a huge cliff near the southern tip of Pluto’s heart-shaped Tombaugh Regio after Sally Ride (1951-2012), who became the first American woman in space in 1983.
“Sally loved space exploration,” Tam O’Shaughnessy, Ride’s life partner, said in a NASA news release. “Even after her NASA years, she dreamed of joining a mission to the moon or Mars or Pluto. Sally also loved the debate about whether or not Pluto was a true planet. And she appreciated the new criteria for classifying a planet. After all, how else can a planetary scientist decide? Sally would be over the moon — or Pluto — with the honor of having Ride Rupes named after her.”
Not far from Ride Rupes is Coleman Mons, an ice volcano that’s named after Bessie Coleman (1892-1926) the first African-American woman and first Native American to hold a pilot’s license. She earned her license in France in 1923, at a time when U.S. flight schools didn’t admit women or Black people.
“Sally Ride and Bessie Coleman were separated by generations, but they are forever connected by their great achievements, which opened doors for women and girls around the world,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. “In breaking barriers they motivated so many women to pursue dreams and careers they didn’t think were possible, and their sheer persistence and pursuit of equality inspire people to this day.”