Farewell to Sally Ride
The first American woman in space passes away at 61
As a little girl, Sally Ride dreamed of one day going into space. That dream seemed out of this world at a time when few women had careers in science. But in 1983, it became a reality: Ride soared into history when she became the first American woman to fly into space.
On July 23, Ride died of cancer at age 61. But her legacy will live on. Her career as an astronaut paved the way for the more than 40 American women who have traveled to space after her.
“Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model,” President Barack Obama said in a statement honoring the astronaut. “She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars. Sally’s life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve.”
A HISTORIC FLIGHT
Ride, who had earned degrees in physics, English, and astrophysics from Stanford University, applied to NASA’s astronaut training program in 1977, after seeing a newspaper ad stating that women could now apply. She was accepted into the program in 1978.
During her training, Ride learned about parachute jumping, weightlessness, and even flying jet planes. She also helped develop a robotic arm for the space shuttle Challenger. Soon, she was selected to be a mission specialist on the shuttle.
On June 18, 1983, Ride was one of five people aboard the Challenger as it blasted off into space. During her six days in space, Ride used the robotic arm to deploy and retrieve a satellite.
Ride took a second flight aboard the Challenger in 1984. She retired from NASA in 1987. Two years later, she became a physics professor and director of the California Space Institute at the University of California, San Diego. She also developed a passion for getting kids—especially girls—interested in science, math, and technology.
“A lot of [girls] have that natural interest . . . but then they start to drift away from science,” Ride told Scholastic News in a past interview. “I’m trying to . . . remind them how interesting science is and what fascinating things you can do with it.”
In 2001, Ride started a science education company called Sally Ride Science. Before her death, she had also written seven science books for kids. But it’s her historic spaceflight that most inspires young girls today.
“A lot of girls . . . assume that women were always astronauts or . . . scientists,” Ride told Scholastic News. “That’s wonderful, because the world that we live in today, there are no obstacles for them. [Girls] can go on and be anything they want to be.”