Sally Ride (1951 - 2012)

sally ride

America's first woman in space, Sally Kristen Ride was born on May 26, 1951, in Encino, California.  In 1973, she received a Bachelor of Science in physics and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Stanford University. She continued at Stanford, earning her Master of Science and doctorate degrees in physics in 1975 and 1978.

Before even thinking of a possible career in space, the future astronaut considered a career as a professional tennis player.  She began playing tennis at age 10, and subsequently won a scholarship to the Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles.  While in her teens, Dr. Ride was ranked in the top 20 nationally on the junior tennis circuit.  After graduating from high school, she attended Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.  During her sophomore year, she left Swarthmore to pursue a career in tennis.  After three months she determined that college was a better option for her, and enrolled at Stanford.

In 1977, Dr. Ride answered a newspaper ad placed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  Realizing that technological and scientific skills were as important to the future of the Space Program as good pilots, NASA began a search for young scientists to serve as "mission specialists" on future space flights.  Dr. Ride was one of only 5 women selected for NASA’s class of ’78. Her natural athletic ability was an incredible asset as she trained with NASA in 1977.  Parachute jumping and water survival training accompanied her technical and scientific instruction.  On June 18, 1983 the space shuttle Challenger was launched for the six-day mission STS-7.   Dr. Ride was one of the five crewmembers aboard, becoming the first American woman in space.

Dr. Ride served as the Director of the California Space Science Institute, a research institute of the University of California.  She also worked as a physicist and physics professor at the University of California, San Diego.  Dr. Ride was a member of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology and served on the Advisory Board of the National Women's History Museum.  She passed away on July 23, 2012 at the age of 61.

Dr. Ride was passionate about improving science education and helping young women and girls interested science.  One of her endeavors was Imaginary Lines, which supports girls interested in math, science, and technology.  She also wrote four children’s books with space exploration themes.


Works Cited:

  • Article is reprinted from a NWHM press release