For American space travel, Sally Ride's mission to space was a watershed moment. But maybe her most important contribution is the way she has worked tirelessly to inspire the next generation, especially young women, to pursue careers in science. She made history by being the first woman in space, paving the way for other women scientists to explore beyond Earth's atmosphere. Ride left an indelible mark on the world by encouraging generations of young people to go for the heavens.
As the first American woman to travel to space, Dr. Sally Ride's name is synonymous with pioneering achievement in the fields of science and adventure. Ride's groundbreaking work as an astronaut, physicist, and educator to promote women's participation in STEM fields is an inspiration to future generations.
Life and Education Prematurely interested in science, particularly physics, Ride was born in Los Angeles in 1951. She went on to study physics and English at Stanford University, and then specialized in astrophysics and free electron laser physics for her doctoral dissertation.
Career at NASA and Space Flight: In 1978, Ride became the first woman to become an astronaut when she was selected to join NASA's Astronaut Group 8. She was the first American woman and the youngest American to travel to space when, on June 18, 1983, as a crew member of the space shuttle Challenger on the STS-7 mission, she made history as the first American to do so.
Mission objectives for Ride included testing the shuttle's robotic arm, which she had a hand in developing, placing satellites, and conducting experiments. In 1984, she returned to space as part of the STS-41-G mission, increasing her total time in space to 343.
What she accomplished paved the path for more women to follow in her footsteps and become scientists and astronauts in the United States. After leaving NASA in 1987, Ride made it her mission to encourage young women to pursue careers in STEM. She has worked as a physics professor at the University of California, San Diego, as a children's book author, and as a co-founder of Sally Ride Science, a nonprofit with the goal of getting more young people interested in STEM fields.