Sally Ride was a celebrated American astronaut and physicist who made history when she became the first American woman to travel in space in 1983. She was also the youngest astronaut to have ventured into space. Ride lived an extraordinary life of many accomplishments, from her academic achievements to her inspiring contributions to science and the space program. Her work has been an inspiration to many and led to a legacy of inclusion for today’s women and men of science. Here we take a closer look at her life and incredible legacy.
Sally Ride was born on May 26, 1951, in Los Angeles, California. Her father, Dale B. Ride, was a professor of political science and her mother, Carol Joyce Anderson Ride, was a stay-at-home mom. Ride attended Swarthmore College, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics and English. She then pursued a doctorate in physics at Stanford University, while also researching astrophysics and free electron lasers, earning her PhD in 1978.
Space Program Journey
In 1977, Ride responded to an advertisement by NASA inviting women to become astronauts. After passing grueling physical and psychological tests, she was chosen, along with five other women, to join the space program.
Ride’s first mission began on June 18, 1983, when she embarked as mission specialist aboard Challenger STS-7, the seventh space shuttle mission. During her time in space, she conducted experiments and operated the shuttle’s robotic arm. On June 24, 1983, Ride made history as she became the first American woman and third woman in the world to travel in space.
Following Challenger STS-7, Ride flew on another two space flights, Discovery STS-41-G from October 5-13, 1984, and Challenger STS-61-M from June 27-July 4, 1985. On these missions, Ride worked as a mission specialist and conducted a number of experiment in which she identified the first source of wideband X-ray emissions from electrons that impacted the Earth’s atmosphere. She also held the title of first woman to use the Orbiter’s robotic arm to retrieve a satellite by extending it in front of the spacecraft and then capturing the satellite.
Ride’s Achievements Beyond Space
In addition to her historic space missions, Ride made remarkable achievements in other facets of life. In 1989, Ride founded Sally Ride Science, an organization that creates educational materials and program to engage young girls and boys in science-related topics. In 1995, Ride was appointed to the National Commission on Mathematics and Science in hopes of strengthening mathematics and science education and teaching.
The same year, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and went on to become the only person to ever receive both the NASA Space Flight Medal and the Eagleton Institute of Politics Fellowship from the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University.
Ride received the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service and was appointed to the National Investigation Committee into the Challenger Accident in 1986. In 2000, Ride received the National Space Society’s Von Braun Award for Excellence in Education for her work in science and space education.
Legacy of Equality
Ride not only made a lasting impact through her achievements, she also opened the doors for other women to join the space program. Today, her legacy lives on in America’s space programs through organizations like Women in Aerospace, which was founded in the early 90s to empower and inspire women to pursue careers in aerospace, space, and defense-related sciences.
Sally Ride devoted her life to the study of science and exploration of the universe and changed history when she made her mark as the first American woman to travel in space. Her dedication and contribution to science, space exploration, and the advancement of women in the space program is unprecedented. She inspired people to explore and discover the wonders of space and today her remarkable legacy lives on.