Sally Ride was the first American woman in space
in 1983 on space shuttle Challenger
and is a former NASA Astronaut.
Her second shuttle flight was again on Challenger aloft in 1984
for an eight day mission and was preparing for her third mission
when Challenger exploded in 1986. She was appointed to the
Presidential Commission that investigated the Challenger accident
and subsequently moved to NASA headquarters as an assistant to the
administrator for long-range planning. She retired from NASA in
Sally Kristen Ride was born on May 26, 1951 in suburban Encino,
Los Angeles, California. As a teenager she took up tennis and within
a few years was ranked eighteenth nationally.
She gained a BA in English (1973),
a BS degree in Physics (1973), an MS degree in Physics (1975) and
her PHD in Physics (1978) all from Stanford University.
Between 1973 and 1978 she held teaching, assistant and research
assignments whilst a graduate student in the physics department of
Stanford University, experience including one summer with the
low-temperatures group working with experimental general relativity
and three years X-ray astrophysics whilst working on her thesis.
Selected to NASA in January 1978 (Group 8), she completed
training in August 1978. Thereafter she performed underwater zero-g
simulations with the mock-up RMS, was a member of the RMS core group
and worked with SPAS/RMS deployment -retrieval procedures throughout
1980 and 1981. She was then Capcom for Shuttles 2 and 3 before being
selected as MS-2 for Shuttle 7 on April 20, 1982.
She graduated from Westlake High School, Los Angeles, California,
in 1968; received a bachelor of science in physics and a bachelor of
arts in English in 1973 and Master of Science and doctorate degrees
in physics in 1975 and 1978, respectively, from Stanford University.
As a young girl, she wanted to become a professional tennis player
and, at one time, was a ranked player on the junior tennis circuit.
She graduated from Westlake High School in 1968 and received a
Bachelor of Science in physics and a Bachelor of Arts in English in
1973 from Stanford University. She also received her Master of
Science and doctorate degrees in physics from Stanford in 1975 and
In 1968, she enrolled at Swarthmore College as a physics major,
but she dropped out after three semesters to work on her tennis game
full time. In 1970, Ride gave up tennis and entered Stanford
University, where she took a double major in physics and English
literature. Her doctoral dissertation studied the theoretical
behaviour of free electrons in a magnetic field. While at the
University she saw an announcement that NASA was looking for young
scientists to serve as mission specialists, and she immediately
applied. She passed NASA's preliminary process and became one of the
She started playing tennis when she was 10. First she began her
career as a professional tennis player. Later she quit playing
tennis and enrolled at Stanford University.
She joined NASA in 1977, when she was 26 and became Dr. Sally
Ride the next year.
Sally Ride joined the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space
Administration () in 1977 as an astronaut trainee. She served as
communications officer for the second and third flights of the space
shuttle Columbia in 1981 and 1982. She was also part of the design
team that developed the remote mechanical arm used by shuttle crews
to deploy and retrieve satellites on orbit.
She was selected for astronaut training in 1978, and reported to
NASA in July of that year. As part of her training, she was a member
of the support crew for both the second and third space shuttle
flights, and worked in mission control as a capsule communicatory (CAPCOM)
for those two missions.
Dr. Ride was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in
January 1978 became eligible for assignment as a mission specialist
on space shuttle flights in August 1979. Her extensive training
included parachute jumping, water survival, gravity and
weightlessness training, radio communications and navigation. Ride
served as communications officer, relaying radio messages from
mission control to the shuttle crews, during the second and third
flights of the space shuttle Columbia (November 1981 and March
1982). Dr. Ride was also assigned to the team that designed the
remote mechanical arm, used by shuttle crews to deploy and retrieve
Training for NASA
The training for NASA was tough and fun. Sally got to parachute,
practice water survival, gravity and weightlessness, radio
communication, and navigation.
Ride was flown to Johnson Space Center outside Houston for
physical fitness tests, psychiatric evaluation and personal
interviews. Three months later, she was an astronaut and one of five
women selected for the class of 1978. While learning to use a new
Shuttle remote manipulative arm for a future mission, Ride acted as
backup orbit Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) for STS-2 and prime orbit
CAPCOM for STS-3. She was named a mission specialist on the seventh
flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983 and flew on a second
mission in 1984. Following the 1986 Challenger disaster, Ride served
on the investigation committee. She left NASA in 1987 to pursue an
Intro for Missions
In 1983 she flew on the Challenger (STS-4) and Challenger (STS
41-G.) By that time she spent more than 343 hours in space.
Dr. Ride flew in space twice. Her first flight was aboard that
space shuttle Challenger in 1983. The flight, commanded by Captain
Robert Crippen, was launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on
June 18. During the mission, the five-member crew deployed
communications satellites for Canada and Indonesia, performed the
first satellite deployment and retrieval with the shuttle's robot
arm, and conducted materials and pharmaceutical research. Mission
STS-7 was in orbit for 6 days (147 hours), then returned to earth to
land on a lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base, California on
June 24, 1983.
STS-7 Mission Specialist Challenger 2
On June 18,1983 she became the first American woman to orbit
Earth when she flew aboard space shuttle Challenger on the STS-7
mission. Mission duration was 147 hours.
Flown as Shuttle 7 (31-C) on June, 18-24, 1983, this was the
second flight of Challenger. She also has the distinction of being
the first female in space.
STS 41-G Mission Specialist Challenger 6
She next served as a mission specialist on STS 41-G, which
launched on October 5, 1984. Mission duration was 197 hours.
Dr. Ride's second spaceflight was also aboard Challenger, on
STS-41G (the thirteenth space shuttle flight), in October, 1984.
This flight was also commanded by Captain Robert Crippen. During
their 8-day mission, the crew deployed the Earth Radiation Budget
satellite, conducted scientific observations of the Earth, and
demonstrated the potential for satellite refueling by astronauts.
The mission lasted 197 hours, and concluded with a landing at the
Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Following the Shuttle 7 (31-C) mission she continued her
astronaut training serving as Capcom on several shuttle flights,
before flying flying for a second time in 1984. She was named in
November 1983 for Shuttle 13 (41-G), the sixth flight of Challenger
and flew as MS-1 on October 5-13,1984. She was later assigned to
NASA HQ. At the time of the Challenger loss, Ride was in training as
an MS with a new crew for a mission in July 1986 (61-M). She served
as a member of the Presidential commission to investigate
Challenger's accident (February to June 1986).
In June 1985 Ride was assigned as a mission specialist on STS 61-M.
She terminated mission training in January 1986 to serve as a member
of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger
Accident. She also became assistant to the NASA administrator for
In June, 1985, Dr. Ride was assigned to a third space shuttle
flight. Training for that flight was interrupted in January, 1986 by
the space shuttle Challenger accident. For the next six months she
served as a memeber of the Presidential Commission investigating the
accident. Upon completion of the investigation, Dr. Ride was
assigned to NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. as assistant to
the NASA Administrator for long-range planning. In this role she
created NASA's Office of Exploration and produced a report on the
future of the space program entitled "Leadership and America's
Furture in Space."
In 1986 the Challenger exploded and Sally Ride moved to Washington.
There she became the assistant of the NASA administrator.
Retiring from NASA
The next year she retired from NASA. In 1989 Sally became the
director of California Space Institute and the "Professor of
Physics" at the University of California and she joined space.com in
1999 until September 2000.
Sally Ride left NASA in 1987 and became a Science Fellow at the
Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms
Control. In 1989, she was named Director of the California Space
Institute and Professor of Physics at the University of California,
San Diego where she pursued one of her heartfelt crusades,
encouraging young women to study science and math.
In June 1999 she joined space.com, a website about the space
industry. In September 1999 she was named president of the company,
a position she held until September 2000.
After leaving space.com, Sally Ride initiated and headed EarthKAM,
an Internet-based NASA project that allows middle-school classes to
shoot and download photos of the Earth from space. Her most recent
enterprise is Imaginary Lines, an organization founded to provide
support for girls who are, or might become, interested in science,
math, and technology.
Dr. Ride has received numerous awards, including the Jefferson Award
for Public Service, the Women's Research and Education Institute's
American Woman Award, and twice the National Spaceflight Medal.
Following her retirement from the space program, Dr. Ride became
Director of the California Space Institute and professor of physics
at the University of California, San Diego. She later became
President of Space.com and headed the EarthKAM project. Today she
runs Imaginary Lines, an organization founded to provide support for
girls interested in careers in science, mathematics, and technology.
Dr. Ride is currently a physicist and a member of the faculty at
the University of California. San Diego, as a physics professor. Dr.
Ride is a member of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science
and Technology. She is the former Director of the California Space
Science Institute, a research institute of the University of
Books for Children
An advocate for improved science education, Ride has written four
children's books: To Space and Back -
describing her experiences in space, Voyager: An Adventure to
the Edge of the Solar System, The Third Planet: Exploring the Earth
from Space and The Mystery of Mars.