Sally Kristen Ride (born May 26, 1951) is an American physicist and a former NASA astronaut. Ride joined NASA in 1978, and in 1983 became the first American woman—and then-youngest American, at 32—to enter space. In 1987 she left NASA to work at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Arms Control.
Dr. Ride has received numerous honors and awards. She has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and has received the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the von Braun Award, the Lindbergh Eagle, and the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award. She has also twice been awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal.
Getting students to see scientists as normal people who work in places besides laboratories is one of the goals of the Sally Ride Science Academy.
"The experience of being in space didn't change my perspective of myself or of the planet or of life," she declares. "I had no spiritual experience."
Well, we spend an awful lot of our time working and doing experiments. It's very busy up on the shuttle. But when I wasn't working, I was usually at a window looking down at Earth.
Her historic journey was preceded almost 20 years to the day by cosmonaut Valentina V. Tereshkova of the Soviet Union, who on June 16, 1963, became the first woman ever to travel into space.
When the first female NASA astronaut blasted off into space on June 18, 1983, her rocket burned a path to the stars that showed women could have the Right Stuff, too.
“In an instant, little girls learned that even the sky wasn't the limit,” Ride’s NASA bio says.
She made it clear that she wore the ID of scientist/astronaut, not the badge of a feminist space jockette or symbol of women's progress.
After graduating from high school in 1968, Ride enrolled in the physics program at Swarthmore College, in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. However, she continued to devote a large amount of time and energy to tennis and soon left college to work on her game full time. Tennis pro Billie Jean King (1943–) told Ride she had the talent to pursue a professional career in tennis.
Dr. Ride was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in January 1978. In August 1979, she completed a 1-year training and evaluation period, making her eligible for assignment as a mission specialist on future Space Shuttle flight crews. She subsequently performed as an on-orbit capsule communicator (CAPCOM) on the STS-2 and STS-3 missions.
President Reagan said that Ride's flight was ''another example of the great strides women have made in our country.''
Over the course of the six-day mission, the crew used the robot arm in space for the first time, retrieving one satellite from orbit and releasing another.
Yes, I did feel a special responsibility to be the first American woman in space. I felt very honored, and I knew that people would be watching very closely, and I felt it was very, very important that I do a good job.
Ride applied and was selected for space flight training in 1978. She was one of only thirty-five chosen from eight thousand applicants. As part of her training, Ride had to study basic science and math, meteorology (weather and climate), guidance, navigation, and computers.
On June 18, Ride became the first American woman in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger.
I had never flown anything, not a thing. I had flown in very large airplanes, but I had never flown anything.