Sally Ride was the first American woman in Space.
When she was 32, a girl born in Encino, Los Angeles, made history as a crew member of the space shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983.
Feminist Gloria Steinem, was one of the many people attending the launch that day and celebrating the fact that an American woman was going into space for the first time.
Before Sally, two women had also flown into space.
Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova was born to a peasant family, but by 26, she became the first woman to make a solo spaceflight. Valentina orbited earth 48 times and spent 71 hours in space. Back then, that was more time than all U.S. astronauts combined.
Valentina Tereshkova was followed by Soviet aviator and cosmonaut, Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982.The first woman to perform a spacewalk.
New generations tend to think feminism just happened overnight, but it didn’t. There were incredible women since the history of humankind began, that have paved the way for us women of the 21st century. Dr Sally Ride was definitely one of them.
Even though she is mostly remembered for being the first American woman in space, her legacy is mainly in education. She was passionate about science and education and encouraging the next generation to follow science, technology and maths careers.
She knew there were many children and particularly girls, who like her, were very keen on science so she created good science programs and materials in everything from astrobiology to environmental engineering to rocket science to motivate children in middle school to continue to pursue their scientific interests as they grow.
Majority of little children are fascinated by science but feel intimidated by it when they reach middle school, so she tried to bring the excitement of science and space exploration to kids at this level.
In 2001, alongside her partner Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, Dr. Karen Flammer, and two like-minded friends, she cofounded a science education company “Sally Ride Science” to promote STEM literacy so that youngsters and particularly girls stick with STEM as they go through school.
Dr Sally Ride, was an accomplished tennis player as a girl and an avid reader, and went on to have an impressive scientific education.
She attended Stanford University and received a Bachelor of Science in physics and a Bachelor of Arts in English. She also received a Master of Science and doctorate degrees in physics from Stanford.
A year away from finishing her doctorate, she saw an ad in a student paper about Nasa recruiting women to fly into space.She knew then, she wanted to be one of those women so she applied together with 8,000 other people to the now famous 1978 NASA’s astronaut program .
The soft spoken physicist, was one of the 35 individuals accepted into the program that year, six of whom were women.
At NASA she completed a one-year training and evaluation period that qualified her as a mission specialist on future space shuttle flight crews. She specifically worked on the development of the shuttle’s robot arm.
She flew two challenger missions and had completed eight months of training for her third flight when it was cancelled due to the 1986 Challenger disaster.
After the Challenger accident, she served as a member the investigation and 17 tears later, in 2003, she was also on the investigation board of the Columbia space shuttle accident.
Soon after leaving Nasa in 1989, she joined the faculty at the University of California, San Diego, as a professor of physics and director of the University of California’s California Space Institute.
She also served as a member of the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee in 2009 which informed many of the decisions about NASA’s current human spaceflight programs.
Her favourite planet was Mars as it is the planet in our solar system that is most similar to earth, the planet that she could imagine visiting one day.
She shared the Mars passion with the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova who is now 83, and who also admitted in an interview, she would love to go to Mars.
Unfortunately, Sally Ride was never able to do this as her life was cut short due to a cancer that took her life away in 2012.
A short but intense life full of experiences not many get to experience. In interviews, when asked about her biggest impression while on the shuttle , Sally used to say it was the moment she saw a very thin blue line all the way across the horizon.
A line that looked like someone had taken a blue pencil and outlined the Earth till she realised that the blue line was in fact, Earth’s atmosphere.
For Dr Sally Ride, it was memorable, because it showed how fragile and delicate our atmosphere is.
If anything Sally is inspiring generations of girls and boys not only to care and look after our planet ,but to follow scientific careers like she did for the better of humanity. As my daughter grows, I will be telling her all about these wonderful women and scientists.
Thank you Sally for all you did and what an incredible woman you were.
Gone but never forgotten! Sally’s riding high !
Here is a link to Sally Ride Foundation