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Sally Ride
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Sally Ride

Biography
(1951–2012)
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In 1983, astronaut and astrophysicist Sally Ride became the first American woman in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger.

Who Was Sally Ride?

Dr. Sally Ride studied at Stanford University before beating out 1,000 other applicants for a spot in NASA's astronaut program. After rigorous training, Ride joined the Challenger shuttle mission on June 18, 1983, and became the first American woman in space.

Early Life and Education

Born on May 26, 1951, Ride grew up in Los Angeles and went to Stanford University, where she was a double major in physics and English. Ride received bachelor's degrees in both subjects in 1973. She continued to study physics at the university, earning a master's degree in 1975 and a Ph.D. in 1978.

NASA

That same year, Ride beat out 1,000 other applicants for a spot in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) astronaut program. She went through the program’s rigorous training program and got her chance to go into space and the record books in 1983. On June 18, Ride became the first American woman in space, aboard the space shuttle Challenger. As a mission specialist, she helped deploy satellites and worked other projects. She returned to Earth on June 24.

The next year, Ride again served as a mission specialist on a space shuttle flight in October. She was scheduled to take a third trip, but it was canceled after the tragic Challenger accident on January 28, 1986. After the accident, Ride served on the presidential commission that investigated the space shuttle explosion.

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Later Years

After NASA, Ride became the director of the California Space Institute at the University of California, San Diego, as well as a professor of physics at the school in 1989. In 2001, she started her own company to create educational programs and products known as Sally Ride Science to help inspire girls and young women to pursue their interests in science and math. Ride served as president and CEO.

Death and Legacy

For her contributions to the field of science and space exploration, Ride received many honors, including the NASA Space Flight Medal and the NCAA's Theodore Roosevelt Award. She was also inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

On July 23, 2012, Ride died at the age of 61, following a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She will always be remembered as a pioneering astronaut who went where no other American woman had gone before.

In May 2021, it was announced that Ride will be one of the first women to be commemorated with a new series of quarters from the U.S. Mint.

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