In our second installment featuring “Women’s Accomplishments”, we highlight Sally Ride.  She has the distinction of being the first American woman ever to travel to space. Sally Ride led a distinguished life as an astrophysicist and astronaut and she was part of NASA from 1978 to 1987. Sadly, she passed away back on July 23, 2012. However, she left her mark not only on space exploration, but also on the scientific world.

Sally Ride Biography – Her Early Life

Sally Ride was born in Los Angeles, California on May 26, 1951 to Dale and Carol Ride. Her parents were devout Presbyterians, which gave Sally her religious beliefs. Sally attended a variety of schools for her education including Westlake School for Girls located in Los Angeles through a scholarship. Later, she attended Stanford University where she majored in both English and physics earning a bachelor’s degree for both arts (in English) and science (for physics) during 1973. After this, she went on to enhance her education with a master’s degree in science in 1973, and eventually a Ph.D. in physics, which she earned in 1978.

Sally Ride Biography – Her NASA Years

In 1978, Sally won a position with NASA’s (National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s) astronaut program. She went through training for a year and after the final evaluation, she was approved to be in line for the position of mission specialist for future space shuttle missions. Sally married Steve Hawley, another NASA astronaut in 1982, but the marriage ended in 1987. On June 18, 1983, Dr. Sally Ride made the historical flight on Challenger space shuttle that gained her the place in history of the first American woman to travel to space. She became an icon for girls and young women to look up to from there until her death in 2012.

Sally Ride - Photo Credit:  Wikipedia
Sally Ride – Photo Credit: Wikipedia

She had another flight aboard the Challenger space shuttle in 1984. A third trip was planned for her, but that was canceled when the explosion of Challenger occurred in 1986. Instead of going back to space a third time, she served on the panel that examined this disaster and she also helped to investigate another problem with the Columbia space shuttle, as it broke up on reentry during its 2003 flight.

Sally Ride Biography – After the NASA Years

In 1987, Ride retired from NASA. However, she continued her work in the field of science and space after her departure. She worked at the California Space Institute with the University of California in the role of director. Dr. Ride was also a physics professor in 1989 at this same school.

She went on to found Sally Ride Science in 2001. This company produces educational products and programs to inspire young girls and women to have an interest in math and science. Sally served as a the company’s president and CEO. This company continues to operate today under the guidance of Tam O’Shaughnessy, Ride’s partner of 27 years.

Sally also wrote five science children’s books:

  1. To Space and Back
  2. Voyager
  3. The Third Planet
  4. The Mystery of Mars
  5. Exploring Our Solar System

Dr. Sally Ride’s Death and Legacy

After a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer, Sally passed away on July 23, 2012 at age 61. On top of all the other things she did in her life, she won numerous awards including being awarded posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. She will always be remembered as a female space pioneer.

In honor of Sally Ride and women like her, Ornament Shop offers our Astronaut Christmas Ornament.


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