Ride Sally Ride: The Story of the First American Woman in Space

On June 18, 1983, history was made. Not only would Sally Ride become the first American woman in space, but at 32 years old, she was also the youngest American to ever leave the atmosphere. Talk about an accomplishment! But Ride didn’t stop there.

Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas: On board Scene-Astronaut Sally K. Ride
Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas: On board Scene-Astronaut Sally K. Ride, STS-7 mission specialist, communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck of the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Challenger. Dr. Ride holds a tape recorder. The photograph was taken by one of her four fellow crewmembers with a 35mm camera. Photo By Getty Images/ Bettmann / Contributor

The next year, she embarked on yet another mission and became the first American woman to go to space twice. Even though the 1983 Challenger mission launched Ride into the spotlight, the astronaut’s groundbreaking career began long before her heroic space flight. Let’s take a look at how Sally Ride made history.

Who Is Sally Ride

Ride’s love for science began when she was little. She went on to complete her bachelor’s degree in Physics and English at Stanford University. But it wasn’t until 1977 that Ride ever considered going into space.

View of American astronaut Sally Ride
View of American astronaut Sally Ride (1951 – 2012) in the cockit of the NASA space shuttle Challenger, June 1983. Photo by NASA/Interim Archives/Getty Images

At the time, she was studying for her Ph.D. in astrophysics when she saw an ad in the Stanford newspaper: NASA was looking for students to apply to their space program. For the first time in history, the program was open to women. Fast-forward a few months Ride was one of 35 finalists (and one of six women) selected for NASA’s space program.

How Did Sally Ride Die

Ride trained as a commander, and she later became an expert in operating a robotic arm on the shuttles. After years of training, her day finally came. She was appointed mission specialist on the historic Challenger flight in 1983. Although Ride hung up her spacesuit after the Challenger disaster in 1986, she continued to make history.

NASA astronaut Sally Ride
NASA astronaut Sally Ride (1951 – 2012) in the interior of the Challenger space shuttle during the STS-41-G mission, October 1984. In 1983 she became the first American woman in space on the STS-7 mission. Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images

Ride was the only person who investigated both the Challenger disaster and the Columbia tragedy in 2003. The astronaut went onto have an award-winning career as a physics professor at the University of California, San Diego. She also launched a career as a children’s book author.

Here’s the essay that Bear Ride has been sending around as a tribute to her sister: “Sally Ride was the first American woman to go into space, and she was my big sister. Sally died peacefully on July 23rd after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. I was at her side.

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