This Northrop T-38 training jet model belonged to Dr. Sally K. Ride. NASA kept a small fleet of T-38s for astronaut training, proficiency, and transportation, and for use as chase planes. As a mission specialist astronaut, not a pilot, Ride was expected to spend fifteen hours a month aloft in the backseat of a T-38, practicing navigation and communication procedures while conditioning herself for high performance flight. Ride, who had previously flown only on commercial airliners, so enjoyed flying in the T-38 that she took lessons and earned her pilot license.
Sally Ride became the first American woman in space when she flew on the STS-7 shuttle mission in 1983. Her second and last space mission was STS-41G in 1984. A physicist with a Ph.D., she joined the astronaut corps in 1978 in the first class of astronauts recruited specifically for the Space Shuttle Program. Viewed as a leader in the NASA community, she served on the Rogers Commission after the Challenger accident in 1986 and the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003. She also led the task force that produced a visionary strategic planning report in 1987, titled “NASA Leadership and America’s Future in Space” but known popularly as the "Ride Report."
After she left NASA in 1987, Dr. Ride taught first at Stanford and later at the University of California, San Diego, where she also served as the director of the California Space Institute. Until her death in 2012, she was president and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a company she founded to promote science education.
Dr. Ride’s partner, Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, donated the model to the Museum in 2013.