Sally Ride Biography


First Female American Astronaut

Sally Ride is a woman of great ambition. Born in Encino, California on May 26th, 1951 she had big dreams to become a professional tennis player. She began playing tennis at age 10 and quickly became an excellent player, eventually winning a scholarship to the Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles, California for tennis. After Westlake, Sally attended Swarthmore college, but dropped out to pursue her professional career in tennis.

Yet what she quickly realized in training was that she had an important decision to make: if she was going to be a great professional tennis player she needed both natural talent and the will to practice to bring it out. What Sally ultimately decided, though, was that she just wasn't good enough to be a professional tennis player, a decision that had amazing consequences on the rest of her life.

After she ended her tennis career, Sally decided to return to school and enrolled in Stanford University. She worked hard in Stanford earning a double major in English and Physics, a master of science, and then a doctorate degree in physics. Then the moment that really changed her life; when she read in the paper that NASA was taking applications for astronauts. NASA received more than 8,000 applications for the space program that year and accepted 35, 29 men and 6 women, of whom Sally Ride was one.

NASA entered Sally into an intense training program which included parachute jumping, water survival, weightlessness training, radio communications, and navigation. After her training she served as the communications officer for the second and third flights of the space shuttle Columbia. She also worked on the team that designed the space shuttle's robot arm used to deploy and retrieve satellites. And then in 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.

She went on to have another flight, this time lasting 8 days in total and was preparing for a third when the shuttle tragically exploded. Training was suspended and Sally was appointed to the Presidential Commission created to investigate the accident. She retired from NASA in 1987 becoming a Science Fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University. She went on to be named the Director of the California Space Institute and became a professor of Physics at the University of California, San Diego where she worked to encourage young women to study math and science.

Since her position as a professor at UCSD, Sally has made it her prerogative to generate an interest in girls in science and math. She worked with as the Executive Vice President and has gone on to found EarthKAM and then Sally Ride Science.

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  • Randy Allen
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