Sally Kristen Ride, born in Los Angeles, California, graduated from Stanford University in 1973. Two years later she earned her Masteršs in science and three years later she received her Ph.D. in physics. She became an astronaut by answering a help-wanted ad placed by NASA on the Stanford University bulletin board. NASA had begun a program intended to encourage and recruit qualified women to apply for Scientist-Astronaut positions. She was one of 1,251 women who responded to NASAšs ad, and in January 1978, Dr. Ride was accepted as an astronaut candidate. Ride was one among four other women and thirty-five total selected applicants. She completed her training in August one year later and was designated as a mission specialist.
Four years later, Dr. Ride flew on the seventh shuttle mission and became the first American woman in space, twenty years after Russia sent Valentina Tereshkova into space. Fifty seven men had gone into space before Dr. Ride made history on June 18, 1963. Ironically, Americašs first woman in space had never had a deep, burning desire to become an astronaut. She was an astrophysicist and a former ranked tennis player, but she became a symbol to American women across the nation. Space was no longer a manšs world. Dr. Ride understood the significance of her being a part of the Challenger crew but didnšt approve of the attention placed on her gender. ŗThe attitude of both men and women in the program was not whether you were a man or a woman, but could you do the job. The emphasis is on things that work - achievement.˛ Dr. Ride was not in space just so NASA could claim she had been there; she was in space to do a job, like any other astronaut. On her first mission, STS-7, the crew deployed two commercial communications satellites and also performed rendezvous maneuvers and over twenty scientific and technological experiments. Dr. Ride was responsible for using a robotic arm to grab a West German satellite and bring it back to earth.
Dr. Ride went up in space on a second mission in 1984. On this Challenger mission, Ride was one of two women on board the crew. The other woman, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, became the first woman to walk in space during that mission. Since that second mission, Dr. Ride has accomplished many things. She became Special Assistant to the Administrator in 1986, where she was responsible for long range planning at NASA. That same year she was also appointed to the Presidential Commission to examine the Challenger explosion. In the fall of 1987, Dr. Ride left NASA to become a Science Fellow at Stanford Universityšs Center for International Security and Arms Control. One of her main reasons for taking this appointment was her concern for Americašs lack of women scientists and engineers. In 1989, she accepted a professorship at the University of California in San Diego, where she headed the California Space Institute.
Although at first the press played up America launching women into space, they soon recognized that these astronauts were not token women appointed merely because of their sex. They were, quite simply, the best qualified people for the job. Before the Challenger disaster postponed shuttle missions, six women accumulated over 1,016 hours in space. Dr. Sally Ride spearheaded the movement of women towards space travel and she proved that a determined person can achieve anything, despite traditional boundaries.