The May 26 Google Doodle honoring Sally Ride on what would have been her 64th birthday grew out of collaborative discussions between the Google creative team and Tam O’Shaughnessy, Sally’s life, writing, and business partner.
Google wanted to celebrate Sally, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2012, for her role as America’s first woman in space and also for her work as a champion of STEM education for students of all backgrounds. But the Google team wanted to go beyond Sally’s public persona to capture her spirit—her love for sports, her sense of fun, and the delight she felt when she saw girls and boys get excited about science.
Google artist Olivia Huynh asked Tam to share stories that revealed the real Sally. Tam recounted favorite memories, including one time when Sally was speaking to an auditorium of teenage girls.
“A young girl asked her what it was like to be weightless in space,” Tam recalled. “Sally asked the students to imagine that suddenly, gravity was not holding them down. She said, ‘Now imagine floating up out of your seats, bumping into each other and rising to the ceiling.’
“The students were mesmerized.”
Olivia recreated that magic moment of imagined weightlessness, along with other vignettes from Sally’s life, in the May 26 doodle. The resulting series of animations celebrates Sally’s barrier-breaking accomplishments and also who she was and what she cared about.
The Google Doodle is accompanied by a video about the making of the doodle and a blog post from Tam about Sally’s life and work.
Google Doodles got their start in 1998 with a stick-figure sketch marking the Burning Man festival. At first the doodles mostly celebrated familiar holidays. Over time they evolved to represent a wide range of events, birthdays, and anniversaries. Doodle subjects are chosen to reflect “Google’s personality and love for innovation,” the company says.