Malcolm Scott Carpenter, who used his middle name as his first, was the second American to orbit the Earth, way back in 1962, on the Mercury mission. (John Glenn was the first.) Carpenter died today in Denver.
Back in 1990, Charles Varnadore, a technician at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, had had enough with the unsafe conditions at the lab. He saw sloppy handling of radioactive materials, employees working in close proximity to hazardous waste, elevated cancer rates among employees, and more. He complained, and was moved to an office full of radioactive waste and asbestos--while recovering from surgery for colon cancer. But instead of quitting or giving in, Varnadore fought back, reached out to media, and by 1993 had permanently changed Oak Ridge, for the better.
Sally Ride, America's first female astronaut, died today in La Jolla, Calif., after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Ride was a doctoral candidate in physics at Stanford University in 1977 when she answered an ad placed by NASA seeking astronauts. She flew aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983, becoming not only America's first woman in space, but at 32 years of age, also the youngest American to have traveled in space at that time. She left NASA in 1987, spending much of her time thereafter encouraging students--especially young women--to pursue careers in science and engineering. She was 61.