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Sally Ride: Why aren't there any openly gay astronauts? (+video)

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Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin concurred, telling Buzzfeed, "The fact that Sally Ride was a lesbian will further help round out Americans' understanding of the contributions of LGBT Americans to our country." [Astronaut Sally Ride: In Her Own Words]

Ride's decision to keep her sexual orientation private reflects her very private nature, sources said. But the lack of even one openly gay or lesbian astronaut in the history of American spaceflight may reflect the culture at the NASA astronaut office. Although NASA does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, Michael Cassutt, author of five books and hundreds of articles about human spaceflight, said coming out would until recently have been "a career-wrecker" for an astronaut. "Not for any formal reason, but in the same way that any medical issue or even some kind of notoriety has been an astronaut career-wrecker," Cassutt told SPACE.com.

"Any issue that detracts from the mission is or has been the kind of thing an astronaut wants to avoid. It isn't NASA politics; it is NASA politics as practiced at the astronaut office," Cassutt said, adding that the office has often resembled a "military squadron."

A NASA spokesman told SPACE.com that astronauts decide for themselves what to reveal about their private lives.

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