Shooting For The Stars- Sally Ride

Sally Ride's NASA picture

Who was Sally Ride?

When it comes to the first American astronauts, we often think of Alan Shepard since he was the first American in space, but have you wondered who the first female American in space was? On June 18, 1983, at the age of 32, Sally Ride became the first American woman to travel into space.

Life before NASA

Sally Ride was born on May 26, 1951, in Los Angles, California. Although she was a nationally ranked tennis player, she pursued education at Stanford instead of playing tennis professionally. Notably, Ride took physics courses at UCLA, and graduated from Stanford with a bachelors degree in physics and English. Continuing at Stanford, she obtained a PhD in physics.

Sally Ride sitting in her uniform.

Recruitment for NASA

In 1977, when Ride was a student, NASA began looking for female astronauts. There was an ad in her school newspaper inviting women to apply to the astronaut program, which she decided to apply for. She was one of the thirty five people selected out of 8000 applicants, and one of the six women picked.

Ride’s work as a astronaut

While at NASA, Ride became the first American woman to fly to space. She was a crewmember on the space shuttle Challenger for STS-7, working the robotic arm. Her job was to use the arm to help put satellites into space. She flew on the Challenger again in 1984, totaling her time in space to 14d 07h 46m.

Sally Ride in space upon the space shuttle Challenger
Sally Ride in space upon the space shuttle Challenger

Life after NASA

In 1987, Ride stopped working for NASA and started teaching physics at University of California in San Diego. Helping women and girls enter the field of STEM was one of her greatest motives. Ride also wrote science books for students and teachers and worked with science programs and festivals around the United States. Moreover, Ride proposed the idea for NASA’s EarthKAM and MoonKAM project, which lets middle school students take pictures of Earth and moon using a camera on the International Space Station and then study those pictures. Additionally, Ride was the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a company she co-founded that creates science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, particularly girls.

Recognition and awards

Ride received many recognitions for her extraordinary feat. Some of the awards she received were the National Space Society’s von Braun Award, the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award, and the NASA Space Flight Medal (twice). She was added to the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame, which honors astronauts for their hard work. Also, on May 20, 2013, a “National Tribute to Sally Ride” was held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. On the same day, President Barack Obama announced that Ride would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. Additionally, she has two schools, Sally Ride Elementary School in Texas, and Sally Ride Elementary School Maryland named after her. These are only a few of the accomplishments of Sally Ride after she left NASA. Unfortunately, due to pancreatic cancer, Ride passed away on July 23, 2012 at the age of 61.

Sally ride in a space shuttle

“If we want scientists and engineers in the future, we should be cultivating the girls as much as the boys.”

~Sally Ride

An ongoing inspiration

Sally Ride is and will always be an inspiration to young girls and women hoping to pursue careers in STEM. Her legacy has left a great impact on the world. By becoming a female astronaut in a time where doing so was difficult, she shows us that if there is a will, there is a way. Her efforts to help other women and girls to chase their dreams are truly admirable. Sally Ride will go down in history as a remarkable and influential woman.


NASA– Who Was Sally Ride?

Wikipedia– Sally Ride

Liked this article? Find more articles on Women in STEM on the HBIC website

Leave a Reply