If humanity can send a man to the moon, as the old question goes, why can’t it find a cure for the common cold?
That question is a sobering reminder that while the frontiers of space might yield to human ambition, the mysteries of medicine can sometimes seem more difficult to navigate.
All of this has come to mind with the death of Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, after her battle with pancreatic cancer. We’re sorry that human ingenuity could find a way to shuttle Ride into orbit, but the know-how just wasn’t there to save Ride’s life when cancer struck. We know that thousands of cancer patients and their loved ones face similar frustrations.
Fortunately, scientific research continues to yield new breakthroughs in cancer treatment. We look forward to the day when cancer no longer cuts short the lives of patients such as Ride.
In the meantime, Ride’s legacy as an astronaut is secure, and her role in helping to investigate two shuttle crashes is worthy of the nation’s thanks, too. Her participation in review panels investigating those accidents helped establish policies that advanced the safety of other astronauts.
Ride’s efforts helped make the exploration of space, an inherently risky business, a little bit safer.