On June 18, 1983, Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space.

Ride joined NASA in 1978, one of the first six women to be selected by NASA as astronauts. She was named a mission specialist for Space Shuttle Challenger's STS-7 mission in 1983 and flew on a second mission (STS-41G) in 1984.

After leaving NASA, Sally Ride became a physics professor and launched a variety of business ventures that would inspire the next generation of astronauts and scientists.

Early Life

Sally Ride was born in suburban Encino, California. 

As a teenager she took up tennis and within a few years was ranked 18th 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. Ride continued at Stanford for a PhD in physics, where her research focused on the absorption of X-rays by interstellar gas.

Tennis Racquet, Sally Ride Object Telescope, Bushnell Sky Rover, Sally Ride Object Pennant, Swarthmore, Sally Ride Object Pennant, Stanford, Sally Ride Object Astronaut Class of 1978

While at the University Ride 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 in Houston, TX for physical fitness tests, psychiatric evaluation, and personal interviews.

Three months later, Ride became one of the first six women selected as astronaut candidates. She was a part of Astronaut Group 8, which formed in 1978. Group 8 was the first to include women and astronauts of color. 

While learning to use a new space shuttle remote manipulator, Ride supported missions from Earth as backup orbit Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) for STS-2 and prime orbit CAPCOM for STS-3.

Helmet, Aviator, Sally K. Ride Object Computer, Dead Reckoning, Sally Ride Object Boots, Flight, Sally K. Ride Object First American Woman in Space

In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space as part of STS-7 on the Space Shuttle Challenger. She flew on a second mission, STS-41G, in 1984.

Patch, Mission, STS-7, Challenger, Sally Ride Object Story Looking Closer at Sally Ride’s Flight Jacket Story Career Keepsakes

Investigating Tragedy and Planning for the Future

After her time in space, Ride continued to work for NASA on important projects. 

In 1986, she was appointed to the Rogers Commission to investigate the causes and recommend remedies after Challenger explosion. She similarly served on a commission to investigate the loss of the Columbia crew. 

More About Ride's Work on the Rogers Commission

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.

Career After NASA

After she retired from NASA, Sally Ride utilized her groundbreaking status to launch a variety of business ventures that would inspire the next generation of astronauts and including the website Space.com and the education organization Sally Ride Science.

More About Ride's Entrepreneurship

Curating Ride's Life

Tam O’Shaughnessy, Sally Ride’s partner in life, generously offered historians Valerie Neal and Margaret Weitekamp and archivist Patti Williams access to the papers and possessions of the first American woman in space. 

What stories, objects, and documents trace the full arc of Sally Ride’s life and represent key moments of achievement? 

Join this group as they discuss the selected objects and papers that signify Sally Ride the public figure and private person, and how Sally Ride’s story intersects with social and cultural themes of her era.  

Pin, Sally Ride Science Object Badge, Star Trek Communicator, Sally Ride Object Story Sally Ride: Women’s Firsts in Space and Politics Sally’s Night

Every June, celebrate Sally's Night to explore the wonder of our universe and shine the light on women in STEM. Attend in person events, use the Sally's Night Celebration Guide, full of activities for the whole family, to join the celebration from wherever you are, and share on social media how you #ShineLikeSally.

Plan to Celebrate