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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 1987.

Sally Ride Picture - First American Woman in Space


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 1978.

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 208 finalists.


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.

Joining NASA

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 satellites.

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 academic career.

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).

STS 61-M

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 long-range planning.

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."

After Explosion

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 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, 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, 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 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 California.

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.

Did you know?

* Barbara Morgan, the back up "Teacher in Space" in 1985 became the first teacher in space in 2007.

 * The Christa McAuliffe Planetarium in Concord, New Hampshire and the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center in Pleasant Grove, Utah are named in her memory, as are asteroid 3352 McAuliffe and the McAuliffe crater on the Moon.


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Updated: Tuesday 1st, April, 2014

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