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Ride, Sally

Ride, Sally Kristen

Enshrined 2007 1951-2012

Ever since she was a young girl, Sally Ride competed with the boys. Whether it was football, baseball or tennis, the guys didn’t care because she was a competitor. So it was no surprise when Captain Robert Crippen, the commander of the seventh Shuttle mission, personally choose Sally Ride to operate the robot arm to be tested aboard the shuttle for the first time. To the crew, Sally was another member of the team. When asked if her fellow astronauts treated her any differently, she joked, “Crip doesn’t even open doors for me anymore.”

    Ride was accepted in the 8th class of Astronauts, one of only 6 women.
    In June 1983 aboard STS-7, Challenger, Ride became the first American woman in space.
    In October 1984, Ride returned to space on Challenger STS-41G.
    Ride is the only person to serve on both the Challenger and Columbia accident investigation boards.
    She has been inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.
    In 2001 Ride founded Sally Ride Science, a company to encourage girls to pursue careers in technical fields.


Sally Ride was born May 26, 1951 in Los Angeles, California. Both parents were educators, her father a professor of political science and her mother taught English to foreign students.

Sally’s parents encouraged her to choose her own paths. She excelled in science and on the tennis court.

Sally attended college just outside of Philadelphia, where she won back-to-back Woman’s Tennis Championships and considered becoming a professional tennis player. She returned to California where she could practice tennis year round, and entered Stanford University. She was the number one player on the tennis team, and graduated in June 1973 with two degrees: one in Physics, one in English. Immediately she entered Graduate School at Stanford, and received her Masters degree and Ph.D. in Physics.

Weeks before graduating with her Ph.D. Sally saw an ad for NASA – they were looking for astronauts with science backgrounds for the Space Shuttle program. Sally eagerly submitted her application and in January, 1978 she was accepted in the 8th class of Astronauts, just one of 6 women.

In l978, Ride began a training regimen that included parachute jumping, water survival, weightlessness, radio communications and navigation, and space shuttle systems and procedures. Her capabilities were quickly apparent. She learned to fly a T-38 jet and participated in the design of the remote mechanical manipulator arm. The device was placed in the shuttle’s cargo bay and used to deploy satellites or retrieve those that were to be returned to Earth.

George Abby, NASA’s director of flight crew operations, said at the time, “Sally Ride is smart in a very special way. You get people who can sit in a lab and think like Einstein. Sally can get everything she knows together and bring it to bear where you need it.”

Dr. Ride first flew in space in June 1983, on the seventh shuttle mission aboard Challenger making her America’s first woman in space. She was a flight engineer and mission specialist, assisting Commander Robert Crippen and pilot Rick Hauck during ascent and landing. For the first time, the remote manipulator arm was used to deploy and retrieve a satellite that flew in formation with the space shuttle for part of the mission. The mission lasted 147 hours before landing on a lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base on June 24, 1983.

In October 1984, Ride flew on her second shuttle mission aboard Challenger on STS-41G, this time with six others. She deftly operated the remote manipulator arm to deploy a radiation-study satellite and to stow the antenna for the shuttle imaging radar system. There were scientific observations of Earth and demonstrating potential satellite refueling also conducted on the mission.

Ride was assigned to serve on a third mission, but training was halted when the space shuttle Challenger exploded in January 1986, killing all seven crew members. She was assigned to serve on the Presidential commission investigating the accident.

The Presidential commission urged NASA to fix the shuttle’s faulty solid rocket booster, initiate sweeping management reforms and beef up attention to safety. However, a recommendation that the agency needed to regain the vitality of the Apollo era was to absorb Dr. Ride’s specific talents once the investigation was over.

She was assigned to NASA headquarters as Special Assistant to the Administrator for long range and strategic planning. She was responsible for the creation of NASA’s “Office of Exploration” and produced a report on the future of the space program. The effort became known as the “Ride Report.” Ultimately, the report recommended NASA establish a permanent lunar base at the start of the 21st century and pursue a Mission to Planet Earth program before pressing on with human exploration of Mars.

Retiring from NASA in 1987, Dr. Ride became a Professor of Physics at University of California, San Diego, and has accepted many positions with various organizations. But she is most passionate about Sally Ride Science, the company she founded in 2001 to make a difference in girls’ lives by creating programs to encourage them to pursue math and science, and to make a difference in society’s perceptions of girls’ and women’s roles in technical fields.

Dr. Ride returned to NASA after the Columbia accident in 2003 to participate as a member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. She is the only person to have served on both the Challenger and Columbia investigation boards.

Dr. Ride has received the Jefferson Award for Public Service and has twice been awarded the National Spaceflight Medal. In 1985, she was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame, and, in 2003, she was the first woman to be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Dr. Sally K. Ride died at the age of 61 on July 23, 2012  at her home in LaJolla, California of pancreatic cancer.  At the time of her death President Obama said in tribute “She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools,” he said. “Sally’s life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve.”

For her pioneering role in America’s space program, Dr. Sally Ride has earned her place in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.