Montecito filmmaker salutes the first American woman in space with monument and documentary

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Honoring astronaut Sally Ride

Montecito filmmaker Steven C. Barber wanted to honor the first American woman in space. So he arranged for the creation of the first monument honoring Sally Ride. In fact, he said, it’s the first monument to honor any of the many female U.S. astronauts.

Montecito filmmaker Steven C. Barber stands in front of a sculpture, now being worked on, in honor of Sally Ride, the first U.S. woman in space. The unveiling is planned for June in front of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Long Island, N.Y.

“It is my great hope that this will open the floodgates to other monuments for high-achieving women,” Mr. Barber told the News-Press.

The new monument features a sculpture of Ms. Ride standing proudly and holding a space shuttle, aimed for the heavens.

Lundeen Sculpture, a company in Loveland, Colo., is creating the sculpture.

“It’s almost done,” Mr. Barber said.

“It’s going to go in front of the Cradle of Aviation museum in Long Island, N.Y.,” Mr. Barber said. He added that he’s in talks with former President Barack Obama about possibly speaking at the unveiling. Mr. Obama presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Ms. Ride.

Mr. Barber said the June 16 event will feature 1,000 young girls holding the new Sally Ride quarter, which will be minted in March.

He said Ms. Ride has inspired many girls and women.

“Once Sally went into space, NASA had 10,000 applications for female astronauts,” Mr. Barber said. “Once this monument is up, it’s going to inspire women all over the world.”

In addition to being the first American woman in space, Ms. Ride was also the first LGBTQ astronaut, Mr. Barber noted. “It did not come out she was gay until after she died (in 2012). I think the gay community is going to be excited (about the monument).”

Mr. Barber said he is working on a documentary about Ms. Ride and the monument. “The working title is ‘The Sally Ride Story: Breaking through the Glass Ceiling.’ It won’t be out until later this year or early next year. I’m talking to Hulu, Amazon, Netflix (for streaming it). The last shot will be of the thousand young women holding the quarters.”

By the way, the world’s first woman in space was Soviet cosmonaut Valentia Tereshkova in 1963. Ms. Ride became the first American woman in space 20 years later when she went up with her four crew mates on the space shuttle Challenger.

Mr. Barber arranged for the completion of two previous NASA monuments — one featuring Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and another one with Apollo 13 astronauts James Lovell, John Swigert and Fred Haise.

The Apollo 11 monument went up in 2019 at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. The Apollo 13 monument was unveiled six months ago at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

In both cases, the astronauts are shown in their space suits, but with their helmets off to reveal their faces.

Mr. Barber also produced a documentary about the Apollo 11 astronauts and the monument: “Apollo 11: We Must Be Bold” (2019), and he continues to work on a documentary about Apollo 13 and the sculpture in its honor.

“It’s exciting,” he said about NASA and the space program. “When I was a kid (in the 1960s), my heroes were getting onto rockets.”

Born in Syracuse, N.Y., Mr. Barber moved to Montecito when he was 3.

“My dad worked at Northrop-Grumman in Torrance,” he said.

In his sophomore year of high school, Mr. Barber moved to Virginia, where he graduated in 1979 from the Augusta Military Academy at Fort Defiance.

He went on to earn his bachelor’s in radio and TV production at Western Kentucky University, then spent a career as a disc jockey at top 40 radio stations across the country.

As a filmmaker, Mr. Barber has produced documentaries that have screened on streaming services. A consistent theme is heroism.

Among his documentaries are “Until They’re Home” (2012), a Kelsey Grammer-narrated film about the dedication of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command team members, and “Unbeaten” (2009), which Mr. Barber explained is about the longest wheelchair race in the world.

His documentaries also include “Return to the Philippines, the Leon Cooper Story” (2015), which focuses on a World War II Navy landing craft officer, and the “Never Surrender: The Ed Ramsey Story” (2016), which is about a lieutenant colonel who, in 1942, led the last cavalry charge in the U.S. Army’s history. Lt. Col. Ramsey commanded more than 40,000 guerilla troops fighting the Japanese during World War II.

Mr. Barber, meanwhile, isn’t finished honoring astronauts. He said he would like to arrange for more monuments about the first black and Latino astronauts.

“I’ve talked with Mae (Jemison, the first black woman in space), and she has some interest,” he said, adding that he may be arranging for a monument to honor all the black female astronauts.

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