Sally Ride, Astronaut Biography

First American Woman in Space Aboard Orbiter Challenger

Biography of American Sally Ride, astronaut and physicist, one of the first female astronauts in the U.S. space program.

The first American woman to fly in outer space, Sally Ride, spent six days on the Space Shuttle 7 “Challenger” on June 18, 1983. She is one of the first female astronauts in the U.S. space program. She flew a second satellite mission in October 1984.

Early Life of Sally Ride

Sally Kristen Ride, American astronaut, was born in Encino, Los Angeles, California on May 26, 1951, daughter of Dale B. Ride, a political science professor, and Carol Joyce Anderson-Ride. She is the elder of two girls, with her sporting pursuits initially channeled to tennis training.

Although she considered a career in tennis, she developed an interest in science at Westlake School for Girls, studied English and physics at Stanford University, and earned her bachelor degrees in 1973. In 1978, she earned a PhD in X-ray astronomy and free-electron lasers, also in Stanford University.

Sally Ride and NASA

On impulse, in 1977, at the age of 26, Ride applied to NASA, which had only previously recruited from all-male military test pilots; she was one of the 208 finalists among the 8,000 applicants for astronaut openings; and in 1978, one of the six women out of 35 chosen for the Space Shuttle program.

After training, which for her included gaining a pilot’s license, she was On-Orbit Capsule mechanical manipulator arm, and in that capacity, was also a flight engineer. Ride was selected to fly in the “Challenger.” Among the spectators during the launch were feminists, and recognizing the significance of being the first American woman in space, she emphasized her presence there was as a scientist rather than as a woman.

In 1982, Ride married a fellow astronaut Steven Hawley. After 1983 she carried out liaison work for NASA, and was a member of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle investigating the explosion of the shuttle flight Discovery, which exploded after take-off in February 1986 with the death of all the crew, including astronaut Judith Resnaik and teacher Christa McAuliffe, chosen to be the first civilian in space. In 2001 she started her own company, Sally Ride Science.

Sally Ride Awards and Recognitions

Ride has received many awards and honours. Among them:

  • 1987, Science Fellow at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms control
  • 1989, joined the faculty of the University of California in San Diego, as a professor of Physics
  • Director of the California Space Institute at the university of California
  • 2003, Named to NASA’s Columia Accident Investigation Board to investigate the cause of the space shuttle Columbia disaster
  • 2003, Inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame at Kennedy Space Center
  • 2006, Inducted into the California Hall of Fame

Today, Sally Ride continues to serve as President and CEO of Sally Ride Science encouraging young people to pursue their interests in science.

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