The legacy of Sally Ride - is the first female astronaut's memorabilia set to float?

Today, April 19, in 1982 Dr Sally Ride became the first American woman to be selected for spaceflight, fulfilling that selection the following year courtesy of Space Shuttle Challenger. In total she spent over 343 hours in space before retiring from NASA.

She now works in universities, and also on books and programs to encourage children's interest in space and science.

Despite her status as the first woman in space, surprisingly little memorabilia related to Ride has come to auction. Heritage and Bonhams between them have only sold a handful of items related to the astronaut. Christie's has sold none.

This seems surprising as the collectibles of pioneering women (such as Amelia Earhart) remains coveted, and there was a long build-up to NASA allowing a woman into space at all. (The first American in orbit John H Glenn famously testified before the House Space Committee against the inclusion of women in the space program in 1962.)

Challenger accident photo signed Neil Armstrong Sally Ride
Challenger photo signed by Sally Ride (and some guy called Neil Armstrong)

Of course, later space missions had tighter controls on items being flown in space and then sold on as a matter of course. But you would still except a greater supply and demand.

Perhaps it is because Ride only became involved after space travel became less of a roll of the dice, in the shuttle era. But as we've seen shuttle memorabilia is often underestimated at auction, so perhaps her collectibles are something of an untapped gold mine for investors.

Certainly some think so. Last year, Houston resident Calvin Dale Smith pleaded guilty to possessing a suitcase full of memorabilia associated with shuttle flight of which one of the key pieces was Ride's suit including her name tag and the mission patch for her 1983 historic flight.

As the shuttles head to their final destinations, there is likely to be an upswing in the markets for shuttle memorabilia, and anything that is associated with Dr Ride may see an increase in value as a result.

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