Astronaut of the Month - Sally Ride

Dr. Sally Ride was born on May 26, 1951 in Los Angeles, CA. She grew up and went to high school in California, then graduating from Stanford University in 1973 with degrees in english and physics. She continued at Stanford, earning her Masters, then her Phd in Physics in 1978. After seeing an ad in the paper, she applied to NASA’s astronaut training program. 

After beating out thousands of applicants, Ride joined a class of 35 new astronaut trainees. Graduating from the program in 1979, she went on to work as a CapCom, or capsule communicator, for the second and third Shuttle flights. She also helped develop the Canadarm (robot arm), which she operated aboard the STS-7 after she became the first American woman to go to space on June 18, 1983. She was 32, and still holds the record for youngest American to go to space. 

Ride would go to space once more, in 1984, on the Challenger. She was training for her third mission when the Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986. She was named to the Rogers Commission (the government commission which investigated the Shuttle disaster). After the commission, she was assigned to the NASA headquarters in Washington, DC, founding the NASA’s Office of Exploration and authoring a report titled, “NASA Leadership and America’s future in Space” before leaving NASA and going back to California. She would not, however, leave science. 

In 1989, she became a physics professor for the University of California and director of the California Space Institute. She continued to work with NASA, leading two outreach programs (with JPL and the UCSD) aimed at children. In 2001, she co-founded Sally Ride Science, a company which aimed to create entertaining science content for children, with her partner Tam O'Shaughnessy. She would ultimately co-write seven children’s books on space. In 2003, she was asked to serve on the investigation committee for the Columbia disaster, becoming the only person to serve on both Shuttle disaster committees. 

Dr. Sally Ride died of cancer on July 23, 2012, at the age of 61.