Sally Ride

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Sally Ride
Sally Ride
Country: United States
Organization: NASA
selected on January 16, 1978
(8th NASA Group)
Calls: 2 space flights
Start of the
first space flight:
June 18, 1983
Landing of the
last space flight:
October 13, 1984
Time in space: 14d 7h 46min
retired on August 1987
Space flights

Sally Kristen Ride (born May 26, 1951 in Los Angeles , California - † July 23, 2012 in La Jolla , California) was an American astrophysicist and astronaut . She was the first American woman in space and, after the cosmonauts Valentina Tereschkowa and Svetlana Savitskaya, the third woman to complete a space flight.


Ride was born in 1951 to a political science professor and advisor to a women's prison in Encino , a borough of Los Angeles, California, where she also spent her childhood. Ride attended the Westlake School for Girls, now the Harvard-Westlake School, until 1968. During this time she was a successful tennis player who was promoted by Billie Jean King . She began her studies at the private Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania , but then moved to Stanford University in Palo Alto , where she received two bachelor's degrees in English and in physics in 1973 . Then she specialized in astrophysical issues and laser applications. In 1975 she earned a Masters in Physics and received her PhD three years later .

NASA activity

Ride applied to NASA as an astronaut candidate in 1977 and was inducted into the eighth astronaut group in January 1978. These were the first space travelers to be trained since August 1969 and the first to be appointed to the new space shuttle program. For the first time women were selected by NASA; In addition to Ride, this group included five other women.

After completing her general astronaut training to become a mission specialist , Ride worked as Capcom in the control center in Houston , where she oversaw the shuttle missions STS-2 in November 1981 and STS-3 in March 1982.

Ride completed her first space flight in June 1983 as a member of the STS-7 mission aboard the space shuttle Challenger , becoming the first American to reach Earth orbit. When it launched on June 18, it was 32 years and 23 days old, setting the record that is still valid today as the youngest US spaceman.

Sally Ride (1984)

A second space flight followed in October 1984 as part of the STS-41-G mission , also on board the Challenger. In total, she was in space for more than 343 hours. In 1985, Ride was scheduled for a third space flight as a member of the STS-61-M mission, which, however , was canceled without replacement after the Challenger disaster in January 1986.

After the Challenger disaster , Ride and Neil Armstrong were appointed by US President Ronald Reagan to join the investigative commission headed by William P. Rogers . She then moved to NASA headquarters in Washington DC and took over the leadership of a working group that dealt with the long-term planning of future NASA projects (e.g. Mars Pathfinder ). After her death, it was revealed that she had been NASA's internal source of information regarding the defective O-rings, which ultimately enabled the commission to successfully complete the investigation.

According to NASA

In 1987, Ride left NASA to work at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Gun Control in Palo Alto.

After that, Ride resumed her research in astrophysics and finally received a professorship in physics at the University of California at San Diego . From June 1989 she was temporarily director of the California Space Institute at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla . Ride studied high energy physics and worked on theories of plasma and interstellar matter . In 2001 she founded Sally Ride Science, a company that provides educational materials for children about space.

After the crash of the Columbia space shuttle , Ride was appointed to the disaster investigation committee in 2003. She was the only person who belonged to both accident commissions.

Sally Ride is the author of several books on space topics, including the children's book To Space and Back . She was particularly committed to promoting young academics among girls. In the US, due to her popularity, she was a frequent guest speaker at events and occasionally appeared in television shows (e.g. Sesame Street ) and commercials. For her book The Third Planet: Exploring the Earth from Space , she and her friend and business partner Tam O'Shaughnessy received the Science Writing Award from the American Institute of Physics in 1995 .


In honor of Sally Ride, the spot on the moon where the two probes of the GRAIL mission planned to hit on December 17, 2012 was named after her.

In April 2013, the US Navy named the USNS Sally Ride (T-AGOR-28) research ship under construction after her.

In 1994 she became a Fellow of the American Physical Society .

On November 20, 2013, Sally Ride was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama .

On May 26, 2015, Google honored Sally Ride on her 64th birthday with a Google Doodle .

Sally Ride is mentioned in Billy Joel's 1989 song We Didn't Start the Fire , which lists important events in contemporary history.


Ride was married to astronaut Steven Hawley from 1982 to 1987 . The marriage was childless. From 1985 until her death, she was in a relationship with Tam O'Shaughnessy, with whom she had been friends as a child. They came out only in the obituary. Ride died of pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012 . Her final resting place is in the Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery in Santa Monica , California.


She is played by Eve Best in the 2013 television movie The Challenger .

Records and first performances

  • First American woman in space (STS-7)
  • First American woman to have been in space twice (STS-41-G)
  • Youngest US astronaut (age at launch: 32 years and 23 days)

See also


  • with Susan Okie: To space & back , Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, New York, NY 1986, ISBN 0-688-06159-1 (English, book for young people).

Web links

Commons : Sally Ride  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c First American woman in space is dead. Spiegel Online, July 24, 2012, accessed on July 24, 2012 .
  2. NASA's GRAIL Lunar Impact Site Named for Astronaut Sally Ride. JPL / NASA, December 17, 2012, accessed December 17, 2012 .
  3. Navy Times: New ship names to honor Sally Ride, 6 cities ( Memento from June 30, 2013 in the web archive )
  4. NASA: President Obama Awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to Sally Ride
  5. Sally Ride's 64th Birthday Doodle , accessed June 26, 2016.
  6. ^ Astronaut Sally Ride, Coming Out in the obituary