Sally Ride was born on May 26, 1951, in Encino, California. Her father was a political science professor, and both of Sally’s parents were elders in the Presbyterian Church. Sally graduated from Westlake High School, in Los Angeles, California, in 1968. In 1973 Ride received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, both from Stanford University. She also received M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, both in Physics, from Stanford in 1975 and 1978, respectively. A natural athlete, she was talented enough to have pursued a career in tennis but was planning on being a teacher, like her father, until 1977, when she applied to NASA.
Dr. Ride was selected out of 8,000 candidates to be an astronaut candidate by NASA in January 1978. In August 1979, she completed a one-year training and evaluation period. She subsequently performed as an on-orbit capsule communicator (CapCom) for the STS-2 and STS-3 shuttle missions.
Sally Ride became the first American woman to enter outer space when she served as a mission specialist on STS-7 Challenger, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, (KSC) Florida, on June 18, 1983. During the flight, the crew deployed satellites for Canada and Indonesia and operated the Canadian-built Remote Manipulator System to perform the first deployment and retrieval exercise with the Shuttle Pallet Satellite. After 147 hours Challenger landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on June 24, 1983.
Ride was also a mission specialist on STS 41-G Challenger, launched from KSC on October 5, 1984. The crew deployed the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite, conducted scientific observations of the earth with the OSTA-3 pallet and Large Format Camera, as well as demonstrated potential satellite refueling with an EVA and associated hydrazine transfer. After 197 hours the shuttle landed at KSC on October 13, 1984. With this mission, Ride became just the second woman to enter space a second time.
In June 1985, Dr. Ride was scheduled to be on STS 61-M Challenger but she had to terminate training in January 1986 after the Challenger disaster. She served as a member of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. Upon completion of the investigation, she was assigned to NASA Headquarters as Special Assistant to the Administrator for long range and strategic planning. Sally Ride has more than 343 hours of space flight.
In 1986, she moved to NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., to be an assistant to the NASA administrator for long-range planning. Ride created NASA’s “Office of Exploration” and produced a report on the future of the space program, “Leadership and America’s Future in Space.”
Dr. 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 was named Director of the California Space Institute and Professor of Physics at the University of California, San Diego where she encouraged young women to study science and math. In June 1999, Ride joined Space. COM, a website about the space industry, as Executive Vice President and member of its Board of Directors. In September 1999, she began a one-year stint as company president.
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. She also founded Imaginary Lines, an organization founded to provide support for girls in science, math, and technology. One instrument of this mission is the Sally Ride Club, created for upper elementary and middle school girls across the country.
An advocate for improved science education, Ride has written and/or collaborated on five children’s books: To Space and Back; Voyager; The Third Planet; The Mystery of Mars; and Exploring Our Solar System. She has also initiated and directed education projects designed to fuel middle school students’ fascination with science.
Dr. Ride has received numerous honors and awards. She has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame and has received the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the von Braun Award, the Lindbergh Eagle, and the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award. She has also twice been awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal. In 2003, she was a member of the NASA board investigating the Columbia disaster, the only member of the group that had also been a part of the Challenger investigation. Sally Ride passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 61, on July 23, 2012. Asteroid 4763 Ride is named in her honor.