Sally Ride, First Woman in Space

By Michael Rosa

On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to go into space, as well as the youngest American astronaut (at age 32) – a record she still holds.

Her groundbreaking achievements in a variety of fields have motivated a generation of space enthusiasts and inspired young women to follow her example and succeed in STEM careers.

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“All systems are ‘Go'”: In 1983, Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman to orbit Earth.

More Than an Astronaut
Dr. Ride won countless honors and awards:

She received the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the National Space Society’s von Braun Award, the Lindbergh Eagle, and the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award, and was honored with the National Space Grant Distinguished Service Award.

She was awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal twice. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the Astronaut Hall of Fame, California Hall of Fame at the California Museum for History, Women, and the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

After Ride passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2012, Women in Aviation, International (WAI) inducted her into its International Pioneer Hall of Fame.

Dr. Ride has since been honored with several other prestigious awards. She was granted the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, and received (along with Neil Armstrong) The Space Foundation’s 2013 General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award, for the pair’s contributions to space exploration.

A Multiple Stanford Graduate
The Stanford School of Engineering also named Dr. Ride a Stanford “Engineering Hero,” an honor given to Stanford scientists who have benefited humanity through engineering and science.

But before that, way back in 1973, Sally Ride was just another ambitious college student, double-majoring at Stanford. She earned a B.S degree in Physics and a B.A in English.

She then pursued her Master’s in Physics, and completed her doctoral work in Physics in 1978, the same year she joined NASA. Her dissertation: “The Interaction of X-Rays with the Interstellar Medium.”

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Sally Ride wrote several children’s books aimed at STEM and space.

An Author of Kids’ Space Books
While Physics remained her primary focus, Ride also put her English degree to good use. She was a longtime advocate for education, who wished to improve the way STEM education is taught.

She also co-wrote seven children’s books, most of them with Tam O’Shaughnessy. These stories all focused on space, as she intended to encourage children and foster their interest in the sciences.

Plus, an Entrepreneur to Boot!
In 2001, Dr. Ride founded Sally Ride Science. The company is a successful and ongoing testament to her pursuit and enduring passion to motivate girls and young women in STEM careers.

The company hosts science festivals and programs, and creates publications for upper-elementary and middle-school students, along with their parents and teachers.

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The amazing Sally Ride, featured in a Google Doodle celebrating her May 26 birthday.

And now…a Google Doodle
May 26 is Dr. Sally Ride’s birthday. As a tribute, Google featured her in a Google Doodle. Google Doodles often celebrate the achievements of people who have a profound impact on society.

For all of the gender barriers she broke through and for all the good work she did in helping inspire girls to participate in STEM fields (and making initiatives like DMA’s very own Made By Girls a possibility), Google couldn’t have chosen a better candidate.

Into engineering and rocket science? Check out DMA’s tech camps. Both girls and boys learn real-world skills from tech and engineering experts.