Dr.Sally Ride : The First Woman Astronaut Of America

Sally Ride was a star that disappears too soon but not before leaving a legacy that continues to inspire millions of young girls all over the world. On 26 May 2015, Google honored Sally with not one but five different doodles!

Once ridiculed for her gender after her selection as the first woman astronaut of America, she proved her critics wrong by her sheer hard work and determination.

She, in fact, become the only person who sat on both the investigating panels formed to know the reasons behind the space shuttle accidents in 1986 and 2003. 

Early Childhood

On 26 May 1951, Sally Ride was born to Carol Joyce and Dale Burdell Ride in Encino, Los Angeles.

While her mother was a counselor, her father was a professor of political science at Santa Monica College. From an early age, Sally expressed her interest in science and mathematics.

However, soon she becomes interested in sports and develops an obsession for playing football, but her parents convinced her to learn tennis.

After all, it was a safer sport than football. She soon started to dream about becoming a professional tennis player and even participated in countless tournaments! 


After being graduated from her high school in 1968, she gets enrolled in Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, but she chooses to quit that college after just three semesters because of homesickness.

At that time, she was seriously thinking of having a career in tennis. So she started to practice vigorously for several hours a day.

Meanwhile, she also joined a physics course at the University of California.In 1970, she joined Stanford University and got an opportunity to play tennis for the same.

After three years, she had a double major in English and Physics, a remarkable feat for a woman at that time!

During her graduation days, she extensively worked on X-ray astronomy and lasers.

She then went ahead to earn her master’s in physics and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the same university.  


It was 1978, and Saly Ride was just on the verge to finish her Ph.D. at Stanford University when she came to know that NASA is looking for astronauts, and women are eligible to apply for the same.

There was no second thought. Sally quickly sends her application, and the rest was history! From over 8000 applicants, she got selected, and soon she was in the astronaut corps.

For training that included weightlessness, parachute jumping, and scuba, Sally joined the Johnson Space Center in Texas.

She soon becomes an expert in handling all the controls that existed within a space shuttle. 

As a result, she got selected as an astronaut in 1979. In 1983, she made history when she went into space as a mission specialist for the Space Shuttle Challenger.

She was the first American woman into space. In 1984, Sally was again selected for a space mission that eventually lasted for 197 long hours.  

She was also selected for a third mission, but it was called off after the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.

She was then assigned the task of investigating the accident by President Ronald Reagan.

You will be surprised to know that she was the only astronaut who was on board in this investigation panel, and she excels in this role too.

She tirelessly wrote several official recommendation reports and projected the belief that there is an urgent need to prevent the space race.

According to her, the focus should be fulfilling research goals. 

In 1987, Sally Ride left NASA and joined CISAC ( Center For International Security and Arms Control ) in California.

After a few years, she joined the California Space Institute as a director and then the University of California as a physics professor before starting her own company Sally Ride Science in 2001.

The idea behind starting the company was to provide science-oriented school programs. 

Some of the authored books 

Sally Ride wrote several books of which some of the notable ones are as follows:

1986-To Space & Back (co-author)

1987-Ride Report

1992-Voyager: An Adventure to the Edge of the Solar System (co-author)

1994-The Third Planet: Exploring the Earth from Space (co-author)

1999-The Mystery of Mars

2003-What Do You Want to Be? Explore Space Sciences

2003-Exploring Our Solar System (co-author)

2009-Mission: Save the Planet (co-author)

And many more…


Although the two times recipient of the NASA Space Flight Medal won many accolades in her career, some of the notable ones are as follows: 

  • 1984- Jefferson Award for Public Service
  • 1985- Lindbergh Eagle award
  • 2005- Theodore Roosevelt Award
  • 2012- National Space Grant Distinguished Service Award
  • 2013- Presidential Medal of Freedom (posthumously)

In 1982, Sally Ride married Steven Hawley-her fellow astronaut, but the marriage lasted for a few years.

She eventually died of progressive cancer in 2012. Only a few people may be aware that such was her incredible work that a 238-foot oceanographic research ship of Navy was named Sally Ride in 2016.

There is even a student housing complex at Stanford University, which is named after her! No wonder in 2012, President Obama rightly said that her life has shown us there is no limit to what we can have.







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