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Sally Ride
Picture of Sally Ride
Sally Ride
(1951-2012)
NASA Astronaut and President and CEO, Sally Ride Science
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"Rocketing into space aboard the space shuttle Challenger as the first American woman to fly in space is one of my favorite moments."

Where are you from?
I am from Los Angeles, Calif.

Describe the first time you made a personal connection with outer space.
One moment I will never forget is from when I was an astronaut. I remember floating over to the window for the first time, looking toward the horizon and seeing a very, very thin royal-blue line all the way across the horizon. It looked like someone had taken a blue pencil and outlined the Earth. Then I realized that the blue line was Earth's atmosphere. It was memorable because it was obvious then how fragile and delicate our atmosphere is -- there just isn't very much of it-- but it sure is important!

"Keep interested in science and do
well in your math and science classes.
Science and math education is
critical to our country's future. "
Sally Ride

How did you end up working in the space program?
I attended Stanford University and received a Bachelor of Science in physics and a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1973. I also received a Master of Science and doctorate degrees in physics from Stanford in 1975 and 1978, respectively.

I applied to NASA's astronaut program after reading an ad for it in a newspaper. Over 8,000 men and women applied to the space program that year. Of the 35 individuals accepted, six were women, and I was one of them. This was in January 1978. In August 1979, I completed a one-year training and evaluation period, which made me eligible for assignment as a mission specialist on future space shuttle flight crews. While in training, I worked on the development of the shuttle's robot arm. I also worked in mission control as a capsule communicator (CAPCOM) on the STS-2 and STS-3 missions.

Who inspired you?
My father was very, very inspirational. He was a middle-class, community college teacher in Southern California, and he put a real value on education. (My father had gone through school on the GI Bill, and he wanted to make sure that his daughters knew the importance of education to get ahead in the world.)

I also played a lot of competitive tennis growing up -- I loved science, but if I was outside I was playing tennis and so professional tennis player Billie Jean King was one of my role models.

What is a NASA Astronaut (former), President and CEO, Sally Ride Science?
I am the first American woman to fly in space. I was a mission specialist on STS-7, which launched from Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla. on 18 June 1983. I retired from NASA in 1987 after nine years of service.

In 2001 I founded my own company, Sally Ride Science, to pursue my long-time passion of motivating girls and young women to pursue careers in science, math and technology.

I wanted to start a company that would create good science programs and materials that would capture girls' imaginations, show both boys and girls a variety of role models (in everything from astrobiology to environmental engineering to rocket science) and encourage them to continue to pursue their interests as they grow older. I know that there are lots of girls out there who are just as interested in science as I was when I was growing up!

Tell us about a favorite moment so far in your career?
Rocketing into space aboard the space shuttle Challenger as the first American woman to fly in space is one of my favorite moments. The thing I liked best about being in space was being weightless! There's really nothing like it on Earth. When we first reached orbit, I did what lots of astronauts do: while I was still strapped in my seat, I held my pencil in front of my face and let go of it. It floated! Once I got used to weightlessness, I could do 30 somersaults in a row and slither like a seal from one side of the cabin to the other with just a gentle push.

And of course we couldn't resist playing a little bit with our food -- floating a blob of orange juice in the middle of the room, and sending peanuts drifting into each others' mouths from across the room. Fun!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take the same career path as you?
Scientific careers are not geeky.

What do you do for fun?
When I was younger I played tennis. Nowadays, I enjoy running, volleyball, softball, and stamp collecting.

If you were talking to a student interested in science and math or engineering, what advice would you give them?
Keep interested in science and do well in your math and science classes. Science and math education is critical to our country's future.

Editor's Note: This profile is adapted from materials and statements found on Sally Ride's company's website: Sally Ride Science


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Last Updated: 3 January 2013


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