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Navy Commissions Research Ship Named for Sally Ride

Sally Ride

The R/V Sally Ride, which bears the name of the late lesbian astronaut, will help save the environment through research-gathering voyages.

Sally Ride has made history once again.

The U.S. Navy will commission a ship Friday named for the late lesbian astronaut, who in 1983 became the first American woman in space.

The R/V Sally Ride is a new vessel known as a Neil Armstrong-class AGOR -- auxiliary general oceanographic research -- which are generally named after trailblazers in exploration. It is the first of its kind to be named after a woman.

Owned by the Navy and operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the ship will gather research on the planet's oceans and seek out solutions to ecological problems. Its maiden voyage on November 4 will investigate plate tectonics.

The 238-foot-long ship will be open to the public Sundays in San Diego's Broadway Pier. A nearby exhibition at U.C. San Diego's Birch Aquarium, "Expedition at Sea: R/V Sally Ride," is also dedicated to the vessel and its mission.

Ride was not out to the public in her lifetime. She died of pancreatic cancer in 2012, and her obituary mentioned her partner of over two decades, Tam O'Shaughnessy.

"I think she'd be thrilled," O'Shaughnessy told The San Diego Union-Tribune, regarding the ship being named for her late partner. "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 named a vessel after another LGBT luminary, Harvey Milk. The event generated some controversy, as some argued the late civil rights leader would object to his name being branded on a warship.

See a preview of the R/V Sally Ride below.

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