Being a young female interested in astrophysics and wanting to go into a career that is dominated by men, I constantly ask myself: what do I need to do to prove that I deserve to be working in this field? What skills do I need to master to become one of the very few female astronauts who are accepted to go into space? And what does it take to be a female astronaut? Sally Ride is a perfect example of someone whose determination and passion lead her to become an incredible astronaut and an inspiration to many.
Sally Ride was born in Encino, California and went to Westlake High School for Girls in Los Angeles. Ride was the oldest and had two other younger sisters, and lived with her mother (therapist) and father (political scientist). She grew up very athletic, playing some professional tennis, and attended Stanford University while also playing the sport. In 1973, Ride graduated from Stanford with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She then continued to further her education again at Stanford University receiving a Master of Science degree and a Doctorate in Physics in 1975 and 1978 respectively. And after graduating, applied to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
Life at NASA
Ride was then selected to be an astronaut candidate in 1978, being one of only six women selected, and by August 1979, completed all eligibility tests and evaluations and was able to become a Mission Specialist for future space shuttle flights. She served as a Mission Specialist on the STS-7 mission, the STS 41-G mission, and was eventually assigned to the crew of the STS 61-M mission. On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman and third woman ever to be in space while on the Challenger, a shuttle orbiter. On this mission, the crew was sent to install the first satellite deployment and retrieval using the Shuttle’s robotic arm. Ride then continued to go on space missions while abroad the Challenger again in October 1984 (which she went on with another woman, Kathryn Sullivan) and the Columbia in February 2003.
Ride resigned from NASA in 1987 and became a professor of physics at University of California, San Diego in 1989 and was the director of the university’s California Space Institute until 1996.
During her time at NASA and after, Sally Ride received multiple awards and honors. She received the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the von Braun Award, the Lindbergh Eagle and NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award as well as being awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal twice. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. Ride was also put into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Astronaut’s Hall of fame. She was an active member of the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology and the National Research Council’s Space Studies Board.
After NASA, Dr. Ride wanted to continue to show her love for math and science and spread it to the younger generation. In 2001, she founded her own company called “Sally Ride Science” to push young girls to pursue a career in science, math, technology, and engineering. This company creates different programs and publications that are focused towards teaching elementary and middle school students, and to help teachers and parents drive their own kids to fun learning. Ride has also written five children books that discuss the importance of science in their lives and how they can learn and be creative on their own.
These programs and books are meant to drive children and teenagers of all ages to be interested in all different areas of science and know that there are hundreds of different science fields, and that anyone can excel in any field they feel a passion for.
Sally Ride died on July 23, 2012 after a long and fulfilling life. She was truly an inspiration to young adults, especially young girls wanting to pursue a career in any STEM field. Ride was a special person who did not take anything for granted and worked hard to push and achieve her dreams and make it even more possible for others to follow in her footsteps.
Written by: Ellie Humphreys
Ellie Humphreys is the Board Member for Voyager Space Outreach for writing Blog posts on STEM/Space Topics.