U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission home page

Sally K. Ride


Sally Ride

Sally Ride
Credits - NASA

Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space. She was born on May 26, 1951, in Los Angeles, California. She graduated from Westlake High School, Los Angeles, California, in 1968; received a bachelor of science in physics and a bachelor of arts in English in 1973, and master of science and doctorate degrees in physics in 1975 and 1978, respectively, from Stanford University. As a young girl, she wanted to become a professional tennis player and, at one time, was a ranked player on the junior tennis circuit. 


Dr. Ride was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in January 1978 became eligible for assignment as a mission specialist on space shuttle flights in August 1979. Her extensive training included parachute jumping, water survival, gravity and weightlessness training, radio communications and navigation. Ride served as communications officer, relaying radio messages from mission control to the shuttle crews, during the second and third flights of the space shuttle Columbia (November 1981 and March 1982). Dr. Ride was also assigned to the team that designed the remote mechanical arm, used by shuttle crews to deploy and retrieve satellites.


On June 18,1983 she became the first American woman to orbit Earth when she flew aboard space shuttle Challenger on the STS-7 mission. Mission duration was 147 hours. She next served as a mission specialist on STS 41-G, which launched on October 5, 1984. Mission duration was 197 hours.


In June 1985 Ride was assigned as a mission specialist on STS 61-M. She terminated mission training in January 1986 to serve as a member of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident. She also became assistant to the NASA administrator for long-range planning.


Dr. Ride left NASA in 1987 and became a Science Fellow at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms Control. In 1989, she was named Director of the California Space Institute and Professor of Physics at the University of California, San Diego where she pursued one of her heartfelt crusades, encouraging young women to study science and math.


In June 1999 Ride joined space.com, a website about the space industry. In September 1999 she was named president of the company, a position she held until September 2000.


After leaving space.com, Dr. Ride initiated and headed EarthKAM, an Internet-based NASA project that allows middle-school classes to shoot and download photos of the Earth from space. Her most recent enterprise is Imaginary Lines, an organization founded to provide support for girls who are, or might become, interested in science, math, and technology.


Dr. Ride has received numerous awards, including the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the Women's Research and Education Institute's American Woman Award, and twice the National Spaceflight Medal. An advocate for improved science education, Ride has written four children's books: To Space and Back, Voyager: An Adventure to the Edge of the Solar System, The Third Planet: Exploring the Earth from Space, and The Mystery of Mars.