Science Women | Sally Ride

On June 18, 1983 aboard space shuttle Challenger, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.

Born May 26, 1951 in Encino, California, Sally attended Stanford University where she graduated in 1973 with her bachelor of science in physics and a bachelor of arts in English. She continued her education at Stanford, obtaining her master of science degree in 1975 and doctorate in physics in 1978.

After her graduation, Ride applied for a job at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and was chosen as one of six female astronauts out of thousands of applicants. She began training for spaceflight in 1978 as a capsule communicator, part of ground-support, for shuttle flights.

On June 18, 1983, on NASA’s seventh mission, Ride took her first spaceflight on STS-7 as a mission specialist. There she was instrumental in helping to launch communication satellites and deploy and retrieve satellites using the shuttle’s robotic arm.

In October 1984, Ride took her second spaceflight aboard STS-41-G, helping remove ice from the shuttle using the robotic arm and readjusting a radar antenna. Her second mission lasted nine days.

After her days of space travel were over, Ride still influenced aeronautics and space exploration. She served on the accident investigation board after the Challenger tragedy in 1986 and again after the Columbia tragedy in 2003. Ride also helped define NASA’s spaceflight goals when she participated in the Augustine commitete in 2009.

Ride left NASA in 1987, joining Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Arms Control and later becoming a professor at the University of California, San Diego.

Ride wrote or co-wrote seven children’s books on space with the intent to encourage interest in the sciences. Ride was particularly interested in encouraging young girls to pursue science careers.

After a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, Ride passed away at the age of 61 on July 23, 2012 at her home in La Jolla, California.

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