Sally Kristen Ride
Sally Kristen Ride
Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space, her accomplishment symbolizing the equal opportunities for women offered by astronautical careers. Although a Soviet woman had orbited the earth two decades previously, Ride's mission represented the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) commitment for all individuals to have access to space exploration as well as reinvigorated public enthusiasm for the space program. While the Soviet cosmonaut's pioneering flight was a publicity stunt to boost the Soviet Union's political prestige during the Cold War, Ride's achievement and vision of future goals in space represent the possibilities offered by the inclusion of a diverse group of space travelers to advance aerospace knowledge.
Born on May 26, 1951, at Los Angeles, California, Ride was born to Dale and Joyce (Anderson) Ride. Ride benefited from her education at Beverly Hills's Westlake School for Girls, where her scientific curiosity was nurtured. She went on to study astronomy, physics, and English at Stanford University, completing two bachelor's degrees in 1973. She continued with graduate studies at Stanford, earning a doctorate five years later. Ride planned to be a space researcher because she saw that American women were excluded from the astronaut corps at the time.
In the early 1970s civil rights legislation required federal agencies to implement equitable hiring policies. NASA accordingly initiated efforts to select female astronauts. Ride underwent interviews and physical examinations to assess her abilities, research interests, and potential before she was chosen as an astronaut candidate in January 1978 with five other women. Training as a mission specialist at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, Ride practiced on simulators for every possible aspect of a shuttle flight. Ride assisted Canadian scientists in creating the Remote Manipulator System (RMS), which is a robotic arm used to maneuver space hardware. During the first shuttle mission in April 1981, Ride flew in the T-38 chase plane to photograph the landing spacecraft, and she was the first female capsule communicator at Houston's Mission Control, relaying information for the second and third shuttle flights.
Because of her consistent engineering ingenuity, even when under pressure, Ride was selected to become the first American woman in space. The shuttle on which she traveled was launched from Cape Canaveral on June 18, 1983. Ride observed experiments and used the RMS to capture a satellite to transport it to Earth for repairs. When she landed at Edwards Air Force Base a week later, Ride became a national hero. She also became the first American female astronaut assigned to a second shuttle mission, flying in October 1984. Chosen to participate in a third mission, Ride ceased training after the Challenger explosion and was the only active astronaut on the Rogers Commission, which investigated the accident. At that time, she stressed that astronauts should be hired for some NASA management positions in order to oversee safety considerations.
Ride then became a special assistant to NASA's administrator and wrote Leadership and America's Future in Space. Known as the "Ride Report," this document proposed future space exploration, especially "Mission to Planet Earth," which relied on spacecraft observations of Earth. Ride also wanted to build moon outposts, launch unmanned probes to explore the solar system, and initiate manned missions to Mars in an effort to regain America's space leadership and increase public awareness of the universe. Ride resigned from NASA in 1987 to conduct research at Stanford's Center for International Security and Arms Control before serving as director at the California Space Studies Institute. In 1999 Ride became president of Space.com, an internet-based company. Ride has received many awards and written several books about space as well as promoted opportunities for women in space research and exploration.
ELIZABETH D. SCHAFER