Sally Ride

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Biography of Sally Ride, an american astronaut with a degree in Physics from Stanford University, California.

In 1983, she became the first woman in the United States to reach outer space. She was also a professional tennis player.

Sally Ride childhood and family

Sally Ride was born on May 26, 1951, in Encino, Los Angeles, California.

She was the eldest of the children of Carol Anderson and Dale Ride, both of Norwegian descent.

As a child, she went to school in the San Fernando Valley; her achievements in tennis, a category player in the national tennis of the USA, earned her the award of a scholarship to attend High School at a Girls’ High School in Los Angeles.

Valle de San Fernando Sally Ride
San Fernando Valley, near Los Angeles, California. Credit: Wikipedia

Sally Ride Higher Studies

She began high school at Swarthmore College, a private Pennsylvania university.

She then went on to Stanford University, near the city of Palo Alto, California, where she earned a Master’s and a Ph.D. in Physics, while doing research in “astrophysics” and “free electron laser.”

Some years later, Ellen Ochoa studied electrical engineering at this same University and later was also a great astronaut.

University Stanford Sally Ride
Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, founded in 1884 by Leland Stanford, is in the geographic and historical heart of Silicon Valley. Credit: MARELBU

Sally Ride begins to apply as an astronaut

In the late 1970s, she volunteered for NASA’s space program.

8,900 candidates had applied. Given her physical and intellectual conditions, and her high level of knowledge of Physics, she was selected.

She was 27 years old when she started training for her space career in 1978.

Sally Ride Candidatas
NASA candidates during a break from training at Florida Air Force Base. Credit: NASA

A Soviet woman had already gone into outer space: Valentina Tereshkova (in 1963); and there were others preparing to do so.

Sally Ride is part of the astronaut team

On November 12, 1981, NASA launched the Columbia spacecraft, with two crew members on board – a commander and a pilot – on the space mission called STS-2.

It was the first time that a manned ship had to return to earth with its two astronauts.

In the Control Center, there were two “cabin communicators” (CabCom) in charge of maintaining continuous contact between the astronauts and the mission’s teams of scientists and engineers.

The entire Control Center staff worked second by second making sure the experiments were done correctly.

One of the two CabCom was Sally Ride. The shuttle was in space for 2 days and 6 hours.

Sally Ride CabCom
NASA Flight Control Center. Credit: NASA

On March 22, 1982, the shuttle Columbia was launched into space again to accomplish the STS-3 mission.

Also with 2 crew and Sally Ride as one of the two CabCom. This time the astronauts spent 8 days in Earth orbit.

During these months, Sally Ride was one of the people responsible for testing and developing the functionalities of the robot arm (Canadarm).

This robot arm was devised by a Canadian company, to provide spacecraft with a metal arm manipulated by remote control and capable of supporting up to 332 kg.

Canadarm Sally Ride
The Canadarm arm in the ship that flies 340 km above Cape Horn. Credit: NASA

Space flight of astronaut Sally Ride

And it came on June 18, 1983, when Sally Ride left her CabCom position at the Control Center and boarded the space shuttle Challenger, which was to begin the STS-7 mission.

Sally Ride was the first woman on the American continent to travel to space as a specialist.

In this mission, the shuttle carried five astronauts: the commander, the pilot, and 3 specialists.

Sally Ride communicating
Sally communicating with Earth from the Challenger spacecraft. Credit: Wikipedia

The STS-7 mission deployed two communication satellites into space, conducted pharmaceutical experiments, and used the robot arm in space for the first time.

It was also the first time that the robot arm was used to trap a satellite.

The specialist Sally Ride and her 4 companions spent 6 days circumnavigating the Earth about 300 km away.

Crew STS-7 SallyRide
The crew of the STS-7 Mission who traveled in the Challenger on June 18, 1983. Credit: NASA

Sally Ride’s second space flight

Her second space flight was on October 13, 1984, also aboard the Challenger, on the STS-41-G mission.

A year later, Shannon Lucid would be the second woman to travel into space.

It was the first flight with 7 crew members on board. The mission lasted 8 days and 5 hours.

It was the second time that a space shuttle had landed at the Kennedy Space Center.

Crew STS41 Sally Ride
The crew on board the spacecraft during Mission STS-41-G. Credit: NASA

Sally Ride’s third space flight was suspended

When Sally Ride was completing 8 months of training for her third flight into space, the terrible accident of the Space Shuttle Challenger occurred on her STS-51-L mission.

The Challenger carried a crew of 7 astronauts, including a woman, Judith Resnik.

The ship exploded 73 seconds after takeoff and all 7 crew members died.

Sally Ride was assigned as part of the presidential commission that was to investigate the details of the accident; she chaired the Operations Subcommittee of that committee.

Sally Ride President Obama
Sally Ride with President Obama at the White House. Credit: Colleen Curtis

Considering the dramatic circumstances, Sally Ride was removed from the space program and assigned to NASA’s Central Office in Washington, D.C.

In Washington, Sally Ride actively participated in NASA’s first strategic planning effort.

She wrote a report titled “America’s Leadership and Future in Space“.

Sally Ride’s life after she left NASA

A year later, in 1987, she left NASA and began working at the “International Center for Arms Safety and Control” at Stanford University.

In 1989, she was hired as a professor of physics at the University of California, and director of the California Space Institute.

In 2001, she applied for leave of absence at university and began working as Executive Director of “Science Sally Ride“.

This was a company she had just founded, with the goal of creating science entertainment programs; and make publications for schools and lyceums, with special attention to girls.

In 2003, she was asked to collaborate with her experience and expertise in the investigation of the Columbia space shuttle accident.

On February 1, 2003, Columbia returned to base, after completing the STS-107 mission work in space.

Upon entering Earth’s atmosphere, the ship overheated and disintegrated. All 7 crew members died.

Sally Ryde was the author and co-author of several books on space, aimed at children, to encourage them to study science.

On December 6, 2006, the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his wife, Maria Shriver, welcomed Sally Ride among one of the characters who are in the “California Hall of Fame” located in the “Museum of History, Women and the Arts”.

Sally Ride Hall Fame California
In the California Hall of Fame. Credit: EFE, December 16, 2008

Sally Ride died on July 23, 2012, at age 61 from pancreatic cancer.

Both in life and after her death, she received numerous honors and awards.

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