Today we honor the birth date of Sally Ride, the first American woman to go into space.
Born in Encino, Calif., on May 26, 1951, Ride’s first love was tennis and she pursued a professional tennis career before enrolling at Stanford University to study physics and English.
In 1977, while looking for postdoctoral work in astrophysics, she read about NASA’s search for astronauts and decided to apply. More than 8000 people applied, 35 spots were filled, and Ride was one of six women selected.
After completing extensive training in gravity and weightlessness, water survival, parachute jumping, navigation and more, she was eligible for assignment.
She served as mission specialist aboard STS-7, the second flight of the Space Shuttle “Challenger,” which launched from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on June 18, 1983 and returned 147 hours later. After becoming the first American woman in space, her next flight was October 5, 1984, on STS 41-G, which launched from KSC and returned 197 hours later.
In January 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger exploded and Ride ended her current mission training to serve as a member of the Presidential Commission to investigate the tragedy.
She then worked at NASA Headquarters focusing on long-term strategic planning for the space program. Ride retired from NASA in 1987, and in 1989, she was named Professor of Physics and Director of the California Space Institute at the University of California.
Ten years later, Ride took space education to a new level. She joined space.com, a website dedicated to the space industry, and started EarthKAM, an Internet-based project that lets middle school kids take photographs of Earth from space and download them. In 2001, she founded Sally Ride Science, an organization that provides support for youth interested in science, math and technology. She has also written and collaborated on five children’s books.
Ride has been and continues to serve on numerous boards and councils and has received the National Spaceflight Medal twice, the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the Women’s Research and Education Institute’s American Woman Award, and many more. She was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame on June 21, 2003.
To learn more about space and educational opportunities, check out the following websites: