Sally Ride (Astronaut/Astrophysicist)

sally-ride.jpgDr. Sally Kristen Ride (born May 26, 1951) from Los Angeles, California, is an American physicist and a former NASA astronaut. She studied at Portola Middle School, Westlake School for Girls, Swarthmore College and Stanford University, and earned a master's degree and PhD.

Ride joined NASA in 1978, and in 1983, became the first American woman, and then-youngest American, to enter space. In 1987 she left NASA to work at Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms Control.

Ride was born in Encino, part of Los Angeles, California, the eldest child of Carol Joyce (née Anderson) and Dale Burdell Ride. Of Norwegian ancestry, Ride has a sister named Karen "Bearful" Ride, who is a Presbyterian minister.

Ride attended Portola Middle School and Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles (now Harvard-Westlake School) on a scholarship.

In addition to being interested in science she was a nationally ranked tennis player. She attended Swarthmore College and then transferred to Stanford University, receiving a bachelor's degree in English and physics. She earned a master's degree and a Ph.D. in physics also at Stanford, while doing research in astrophysics and free electron laser physics.

Ride was one of 8,000 people to answer an advertisement in a newspaper seeking applicants for the space program. As a result, Ride joined NASA in 1978. During her career, Ride served as the ground-based Capsule Communicator (CapCom) for the second and third Space Shuttle flights (STS-2 and STS-3) and helped develop the Space Shuttle's robot arm.

On June 18, 1983, she became the first American woman in space as a crew member on Space Shuttle Challenger for STS-7. (She was preceded by two Soviet women, Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 and Svetlana Savitskaya  in 1982.) Her voice, however, was not the first female voice to be transmitted from an American spacecraft because during Skylab, a recording of Helen Garriott, wife of crewmember Owen Garriott, was transmitted down to Mission Control as a prank, pretending that she was actually onboard the spacecraft.

On STS-7, during which the five-person crew deployed two communications satellites and conducted pharmaceutical experiments, Ride was the first woman to use the robot arm in space and the first to use the arm to retrieve a satellite. Her second space flight was in 1984, also on board the Challenger. She has cumulatively spent more than 343 hours in space. Ride had completed eight months of training for her third flight when the Space Shuttle Challenger accident occurred.

She was named to the Presidential Commission investigating the accident, and headed its subcommittee on Operations. After the investigation, Ride was assigned to NASA headquarters in Washington DC. There she led NASA's first strategic planning effort, authoring a report entitled "Leadership and America's Future in Space", and founded NASA's Office of Exploration. Ride married fellow NASA astronaut Steve Hawley in 1982, but the two divorced in 1987.

Related Links:
Sally Ride on Wikipedia
Sally Ride Science