Sally Ride Becomes First American Woman in Space
Ride was one of 8,000 people to answer an advertisement in a newspaper seeking applicants for the space program.
As a result, Ride joined NASA in 1978. During her career, Ride served as the ground-based Capsule Communicator (CapCom) for the second and third Space Shuttle flights (STS-2 and STS-3) and helped develop the Space Shuttle's robot arm. On June 18, 1983, she became the first American woman in space as a crew member on Space Shuttle Challenger for STS-7. (She was preceded by two Soviet women, Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 and Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982.) On STS-7, during which the five-person crew deployed two communications satellites and conducted pharmaceutical experiments, Ride was the first woman to use the robot arm in space and the first to use the arm to retrieve a satellite. Her second space flight was in 1984, also on board the Challenger. She has cumulatively spent more than 343 hours in space. Ride had completed eight months of training for her third flight when the Space Shuttle Challenger accident occurred. She was named to the Presidential Commission investigating the accident, and headed its subcommittee on Operations. After the investigation, Ride was assigned to NASA headquarters in Washington, DC. There she led NASA's first strategic planning effort, authoring a report entitled "Leadership and America's Future in Space", and founded NASA's Office of Exploration. Ride married fellow NASA astronaut Steve Hawley in 1982, but the two divorced in 1987.
After joining NASA in 1977 Ride underwent extensive training that included parachute jumping, water survival, gravity and weightlessness training, radio communications and navigation. She enjoyed flight training so much that flying became a favorite hobby. During the second and third flights of the space shuttle Columbia (November 1981 and March 1982), Ride served as communications officer, relaying radio messages from mission control to the shuttle crews. Dr. Ride was also assigned to the team that designed the remote mechanical arm, used by shuttle crews to deploy and retrieve satellites.
In 1983, Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space on the shuttle Challenger (STS-7). Her next flight was an eight-day mission in 1984, again on Challenger (STS 41-G). Her cumulative hours of space flight are more than 343.
Ride was preparing for her third mission when Challenger exploded in 1986. When training was suspended, she was appointed to the Presidential Commission charged with investigating the accident. She moved to NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she became assistant to the NASA administrator for long-range planning. Ride created NASA's "Office of Exploration" and produced a report on the future of the space program, "Leadership and America's Future in Space."
Dr. Ride retired from NASA in 1987 to become a Science Fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University. After two years, she was named Director of the California Space Institute and Professor of Physics at the University of California, San Diego where she pursued one of her heartfelt crusades, encouraging young women to study science and math.