The Robinson Library
The Robinson Library >> Astronautics >> Biography
Sally Ride

the first American woman in space

Sally Ride

Sally Kristen Ride was born in Encino, California, on May 26, 1951. An excellent tennis player by the age of ten, she won a tennis scholarship to the Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles. After graduating in 1968, she enrolled at Swarthmore College, but dropped out to pursue a professional tennis career. After three months of practice, however, she decided she wasn't good enough to go pro and enrolled at Stanford University.

Having received her Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Sciences, and Masters' degrees, Ride was in the process of looking for postdoctoral work in astrophysics when she read about NASA's call for astronauts. More than 8,000 men and women applied, but only 35 were accepted; six of those who were accepted were women, and one of those women was Sally Ride.

Ride joined NASA in 1977. She served as communications officer for the second and third flights of the Space Shuttle Columbia (November 1981 and March 1982), and was also assigned to the team that designed the remote mechanical arm, used by shuttle crews to deploy and retrieve satellites. On June 18, 1983, Ride became the first American woman in space, flying aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-7). She flew again in 1984, aboard Challenger (STS-41G). During those two flights Ride spent more than 343 hours in space.

After the Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986, Ride was appointed to the Presidential Commission charged with investigating the accident. She subsequently moved to NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she became assistant to the NASA administrator for long-range planning. In this latter capacity she created NASA's Office of Exploration and produced a report on the future of the space program, Leadership and America's Future in Space.

Ride retired from NASA in 1987 to become a Science Fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University. In 1989, she became Director of the California Space Institute and Professor of Physics at the University of California at San Diego.

In 1999, Ride left academia to join, a website about the space industry, as Executive Vice-President and member of its Board of Directors; she was named President of the company later that same year, and held that position until 2000. She then initiated EarthKAM, an Internet-based NASA project that allows middle-school classes to shoot and download photos of the Earth from space. Her most recent project was Imaginary Lines, an organization founded to provide support for girls interested in science, math, and technology.

Dr. Sally Ride received numerous awards, including the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the Women's Research and Education Institute's American Woman Award, and the National Spaceflight Medal (twice). She was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame at Kennedy Space Center on June 21, 2003. She died on July 23, 2012, after a 17-month battle with cancer.

Dr. Ride wrote and/or collaborated on five children's books:
To Space and Back
Voyager: An Adventure to the Edge of the Solar System
The Third Planet: Exploring the Earth from Space
The Mystery of Mars
Exploring Our Solar System

Lucid Cafe


Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Astronautics >> Biography

This page was last updated on 06/17/2018.