Carolyn Porco, a prominent planetary scientist and leader of the imaging team on NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn, met Ride many years ago when she was an astronaut candidate, already steeped in the NASA mindset of reserve and self-effacement.
"Following her career all these years, she struck me as a woman of impeccable class, and it doesn't surprise she wanted to keep her private life private," Porco said. "I don't think it's anyone else's business, and I'd love for us all to get to the place where it doesn't matter anymore."
That's been a common theme in the commentary about Ride's relationship — a hope that American society will someday reach a point where being gay or lesbian is no more noteworthy than being straight.
Sarah Blazucki, editor of Philadelphia Gay News, said that day has not arrived.
"It's still important to come out, because we're not post-gay yet," she said. "When we do have full equality, then it's a different story."
She expressed respect for Ride's choices, but also regret.
"In the long run, everyone in the LGBT community and those who will follow benefit from someone coming out," Blazucki said. "It's sad that she felt she had to wait."
Another gay journalist, widely followed blogger Bil Browning, said the revelation about Ride left him with mixed feelings.
"I wish that she had come out while she was alive," he said. "The statement that would have been sent to young lesbians across the country would have been like Obama's election was to African-American kids."
On the other hand, he acknowledged generational differences and said Ride was entitled to her privacy.
"The activist in me thinks it's a missed opportunity," Browning said. "But she did the right thing at the end."
Some of the same issues involving privacy and openness surfaced in early July when CNN journalist Anderson Cooper, after years of reluctance to go public about his personal life, confirmed that he is gay.
Cooper wrote in an online letter that he had kept his sexual orientation private for personal and professional reasons, but eventually decided that remaining silent had given some people a mistaken impression that he was ashamed.
"I hope this doesn't mean an end to a small amount of personal space," Cooper wrote. "But I do think visibility is important, more important than preserving my reporter's shield of privacy."
Two days later, there was another revelation: fast-rising R&B star Frank Ocean announced on his Tumblr page that his first love was a man.
"I don't have any secrets I need to keep anymore," Ocean wrote at the end of his post. "I feel like a free man."
David Crary can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.