The United States Navy will commission a ship Friday named for Sally Ride, the late lesbian astronaut who in 1983 became the first American woman in space.
The R/V Sally Ride is a new vessel classified as an AGOR ship, or one that will be used for auxiliary general oceanographic research. These types of ships are generally named after trailblazing explorers—this marks the first time one has been named after a woman.
Owned by the Navy but operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the vessel will gather research on the planet’s oceans in order to combat ecological decay. It will set off Friday for its first voyage to investigate plate tectonics.
Ride, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2012, was not publicly out during her lifetime, but had been in a relationship with Tam O’Shaughnessy for over two decades.
“I think she’d be thrilled,” O’Shaughnessy told The San Diego Union-Tribune, regarding the R/V Sally Ride. “There are so many connections — Scripps and being female and having the first academic research vessel being named after a woman. That’s just keeping with what she was all about her whole life.”
“She probably would want to sign up for an expedition,” she added.
Earlier this year, the Navy caused a stir when it named a ship after civil rights leader Harvey Milk. While some celebrated the move, others argued that the late pioneer wouldn’t want to be associated with the military.