Kristen Stewart cast as trailblazing lesbian astronaut Sally Ride in first lead TV role

Kristen Stewart and Sally Ride

Kristen Stewart, our sapphic lord and saviour, is heading to space for her lead TV debut in The Challenger.

In the limited series, the Twilight and Love Lies Bleeding actor will be taking on the role of the first American woman to fly in space: lesbian astronaut and physicist Sally Ride.

Somewhat unbelievably given her level of fame, the role of Sally Ride will mark Stewart’s first-ever lead TV role. 

According to Deadline, The Challenger will chart NASA’s efforts to diversify its pilots and crew for the space shuttle program. NASA Astronaut Group 8 – also known as TFNG (thirty-five new guys) was a group of 35 astronauts announced in 1978 – it was the first group to include female and minority astronauts.

As a member of the groundbreaking STS-7 mission in 1983, Sally Ride made history as both the first American woman and the first member of the LGBTQ+ community to fly into space – on the shuttle Challenger. She also became the youngest American astronaut to have flown in space, aged just 32.

The Challenger shuttle was tragically destroyed in January 1986 soon after launch in a disaster that killed all seven crew members.

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Maggie Cohn will serve as the writer and showrunner. The Challenger is based on Meredith E. Bagby’s book The New Guys: The Historic Class of Astronauts That Broke Barriers and Changed the Face of Space Travel.

Big Swing Productions’ Kyra Sedgwick shared: “We wanted so much to tell this story as a limited series.

“Valerie had this dream of having Kristen Stewart, and after more than a year of trying to get Kristen this book through back channeling, she read it and she fell in love.”

Speaking about Stewart’s involvement, Sedgwick added: “She has never done television, but when she read this she became obsessed with telling the story of Sally Ride from her own unique perspective that I won’t even try to paraphrase because she is so eloquent about it.

“She’s so compelling and was so rabid about telling this story about an American hero who had to hide who she was, in that time.

“Who better to play Sally Ride than one of the great actors of her generation? As they say in Hollywood, passion wins the day.”

The series is set to be released in proximity to the Challenger disaster anniversary, meaning we won’t be seeing Stewart on our screens in The Challenger until 2026.

In the meantime, Stewart is making her directorial debut, an adaption of The Chronology of Water

She will also be making our bisexual dreams a reality as Stewart’s been cast in the vampire movie Flesh of the Gods, opposite Dune’s Oscar Isaac.

Sally Ride communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck of the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Challenger.
Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space. (Getty)

Everything you need to know about Sally Ride – including if she had a wife

Ride (whose middle name is, interestingly, Kristen! Fate!) joined NASA in 1978 and made history in 1983 when she became the first American woman to fly in space, the third woman overall. She was launched into national acclaim after her success in space.

Following the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, when seven crew members were killed when the shuttle exploded after 73 seconds, Ride was the only astronaut appointed to the Rogers Commission that investigated the disaster. 

After Ride’s death, Major General Donald J. Kutyna revealed Ride had spotted the issue, the O-rings that became stiff at low temperature, which caused the explosion. 

After the Challenger investigation, Ride was assigned to NASA headquarters where she led strategic planning and founded NASA’s Office of Exploration.

Shuttle commission members for Challenger investigation including Sally Ride
Sally Ride was on the Shuttle commission for the Challenger investigation. (Cynthia Johnson/Getty)

Ride died from cancer at age 61 in 2012 and it was then her obituary revealed that she was in a 27-year-long relationship with former Women’s Tennis Association player Tam O’Shaughnessy who was coached by Billie Jean King, though they were not married.

Previously, Ride was married to astronaut Steven Hawley in her spaceflight years.

While Ride made huge developments in NASA, on weekends she flew to Atlanta to be with O’Shaughnessy. 

When Ride retired from NASA, she and O’Shaughnessy moved in together. The couple co-wrote six books on space that encourage children to study science.

The posthumous queer revelation meant that Ride was not only the first American woman in space, but it’s also believed she was the first LGBTQ+ person in space.

In 2013, President Barack Obama honoured Sally Ride with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. The medal was presented to her partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy.

Ride has also been honoured on a United States Postal Service stamp and became the first out LGBTQ+ person to appear on US currency

Ride has gone on to become a name in popular culture: Janelle Monáe released a song called ‘Sally Ride’ and she featured in the second season of the Apple TV+ show For All Mankind.

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