women in aviation and space history

Dr. Sally Ride

Sally Ride
National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Dr. Sally Ride

Space Race (114)

On June 18, 1983, Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space. Ride was born in suburban Encino, California. As a teenager she took up tennis and within a few years was ranked eighteenth nationally. In 1968, she enrolled at Swarthmore College as a physics major, but she dropped out after three semesters to work on her tennis game full time. In 1970, Ride gave up tennis and entered Stanford University, where she took a double major in physics and English literature. Her doctoral dissertation studied the theoretical behavior of free electrons in a magnetic field. While at the University she saw an announcement that NASA was looking for young scientists to serve as mission specialists, and she immediately applied. She passed NASA's preliminary process and became one of the 208 finalists. Ride was flown to Johnson Space Center outside Houston for physical fitness tests, psychiatric evaluation, and personal interviews. Three months later, she was an astronaut and one of six women selected for the class of 1978. While learning to use a new space shuttle remote manipulative arm for a future mission, Ride acted as backup orbit Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) for STS-2 and prime orbit CAPCOM for STS-3. She was named a mission specialist on the seventh flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983 and flew on a second mission in 1984. Following the 1986 Challenger disaster, Ride served on the investigation committee. She left NASA in 1987 to pursue an academic career.

(information compiled by D. Cochrane and P. Ramirez)