Photo of Sally Ride.

Wednesday Geek Woman: Sally Ride, astronaut and first American woman in space

This is a guest post by Maya. This entry originally appeared at the Project Exploration blog.

Photo of Sally Ride.

Sally Ride. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sally Ride was born in 1951 in Los Angeles, California. As a young woman, her interests included science and tennis. She was a nationally ranked amateur, and she briefly left college to pursue tennis as a career. After several months of practice, she gave up on the idea and transferred to Stanford University, where she double majored in English and physics. After completing her undergraduate degree, she remained at Stanford to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate in physics.

After completing her education, Ride joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She trained rigorously for a year, during which time she collaborated on the development of the Space Shuttle’s robot arm and worked in mission control as a Capsule Communicator. Once her training was completed, she was assigned to the Space Shuttle Challenger. When the shuttle was launched on June 18, 1983, Ride became the first American woman in space. Her second and final flight took place the following year. Over the course of her two missions, she spent a total of 14 days in space.

Ride was scheduled to take a third flight, but all training was suspended after the tragic Challenger accident in 1986. Instead, she was appointed to the Presidential Commission responsible for investigating the disaster. After the investigation was completed, she was assigned to NASA Headquarters.

Photo of Sally Ride aboard the Space Shuttle.

Sally Ride aboard the Space Shuttle. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1989, Ride was offered a faculty position at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). At UCSD, she filled two roles—professor of physics and Director of the California Space Institute. In 2001, she founded her own company, Sally Ride Science, with the goal of promoting science education. She is now on leave from the university, working as president and chief executive officer of Sally Ride Science.

Ride has received numerous awards for her accomplishments. She has been inducted into the California Hall of Fame, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and the Aviation Hall of Fame. She is also a two-time NASA Space Flight Medalist.

Science is Ride’s passion, and she has written 6 books for children about space. She continues working to improve opportunities in science education, particularly for girls and young women. She hopes that today’s young people will come to share her love of science.




Sally Ride Science


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2 thoughts on “Wednesday Geek Woman: Sally Ride, astronaut and first American woman in space

  1. the15th

    I love that she’s willing to talk explicitly about sexism in tech fields instead of sticking solely to happy talk about encouraging girls and women in science. When asked whether there’s “a grain of truth” about Larry Summers’ comments on women in science: “Suppose you came across a woman lying on the street with an elephant sitting on her chest. You notice she is short of breath. Shortness of breath can be a symptom of heart problems. In her case, the much more likely cause is the elephant on her chest. For a long time, society put obstacles in the way of women who wanted to enter the sciences. That is the elephant. “

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