Credit: Courtesy Steven C. Barber

With serendipitous timing for Pride Month, Astronaut Sally Ride — the first American woman in space whose gay icon status was solidified (and verified) when her 2012 obituary stated that she was survived by Tam O’Shaughnessy, her “partner of 27 years”— is getting some long-overdue recognition this week, thanks in large part to the efforts of Montecito filmmaker Steven C. Barber. 

Credit: Courtesy Steven C. Barber

A documentarian who happens to be best friends with Buzz Aldrin (who, at age 92, is the last remaining living crew member of the Apollo 11 mission), Barber was also the instigator of two previous NASA monuments. One at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, features Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins; and another one at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, features Apollo 13 astronauts James Lovell, John Swigert, and Fred Haise.

Both monuments have accompanying documentary films, and so will Sally Ride’s, set to be unveiled on June 17 in front of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Long Island, New York. All of the astronaut monuments were created by Lundeen Sculpture, a team of internationally renowned sculptors based in Loveland, Colorado. 

Clearly a man on a mission to bring recognition to unsung heroes, Barber takes special pride in the fact that some of the final funding for Sally Ride’s statue came from Maria Shriver, whose uncle, President John F. Kennedy, committed the U.S. to landing a man on the Moon.

“I’m a big space junkie,” said Barber, who has visions of future monuments to astronaut Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go to space, and Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space. “It is my great hope that once Sally Ride is unveiled, it will open the floodgates to other monuments for high-achieving American women in STEM,” he said. “It’s the greatest story in the history of mankind.”

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