Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died on Monday, July 23rd, at the age of 61. Susan Juhl and her husband Jerry, had gotten to know Sally and she shared this remembrance with us about how Sally Ride met the Muppets:
Way back in 1981, the Muppets were asked to write wake-up calls for astronauts on board the first Columbia shuttle flights. Jerry asked if he could be given info about them; what were their favorite songs, their odd tics, their passions...
Sally Ride was in charge of these calls, so she contacted Jerry. She was very pleased with Jerry's enthusiasm, and volunteered to fly to our place, to discuss things in person. (It wasn't just for fun: astronauts had to pilot a jet once a month.) Next thing we knew, THREE astronauts flew three jets to Vandenberg, where they rented a car and drove to Cambria.
I fixed dinner for them, then the talk began. After Jerry got the info he needed, he showed them his flight simulator on his Apple. The three space people asked to try it out.
They crashed the planes (NOT on purpose!)
The wake-ups went beautifully.
The original three plus the guys who had been awakened wanted to thank us, so they flew out again. We had a great time, and they signed a large photo of the shuttle ascending. They wrote, "To Jerry and Susan ("writers to the Stars") -- Many thanks! And may the Swinetrek and the Columbia cross paths again." It's signed by Steve Negel, Terry J. Hart, Jim Bucki, John Young, Richard Truly, Joe Engle, Ken Mattingly, Hank Hartsfield, Rich Hauck, Dan Brandenstein, and Sally K. Ride (John Young had been the ninth person to walk on the Moon in 1972.)
Sally kept in touch, so when she was picked to fly aboard the Challenger in 1983, she invited us to the launch. We went, thinking we'd probably be a long way away from the main staging area, since we weren't family. We were very surprised to find ourselves in the VIP stand.
It was a glorious moment when that beautiful shuttle took off. All the senses were involved (mainly sight and sound, but even smell and taste) and I was so moved I was crying. I looked at Jerry. He was crying, too.
We kept up our friendship with Sally, and invited her to Toronto where we were producing Fraggle Rock. She was fascinated by the Doozers, since the mechanisms used to make them move was very similar to the arm on the Shuttle.
She was a great teacher, writer, scientist and human being.