On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman — and the third woman in the world — to go into space. As she broke free of Earth’s gravity that day, she shattered the glass ceiling for women in space exploration and inspired generations of girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Born on May 26, 1951, in Los Angeles, California, Sally Ride grew up in a family with a strong commitment to education and community service. Her mother, Joyce Ride, was of Norwegian descent and served as a counselor and volunteer for numerous charitable organizations. Her father, Dale Ride, was a political science professor at Santa Monica College. We found a record of Sally’s parents in the 1950 U.S. census, providing a snapshot of their lives just a year before Sally was born:
The record lists Dale as the head of the household, aged 27, and says he was teaching 8th grade at the time; Joyce aged 26, was working as an office clerk at the state university. After Sally was born, they had another girl named Karen, fondly known as “Bear.”
Sally started out her college career in Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, initially hoping to become a professional tennis player. Eventually transferring to the University of California, she began studying Shakespeare and quantum mechanics — the only woman studying physics. She eventually transferred to Stanford and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature, then went on to earn a Master of Science and PhD in physics. In 1978, she was selected as one of 35 applicants (6 of whom were women) out of more than 8,000 to become an astronaut candidate for NASA.
Sally’s historic spaceflight aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on the STS-7 mission was just the first of two spaceflights she would make during her career as an astronaut. On her two flights, Sally spent over 343 hours in space. She also served on the investigation board for the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, and later became a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego.
Sally Ride’s words during a Capitol news conference, captured in an article from The Union Democrat, Sonora, California, dated Monday, August 15, 1983, encapsulate her dedication to and love for space exploration. During the press conference, she was quoted saying that she wouldn’t trade her career as an astronaut “for all the money in the world.” This statement reflected her unwavering commitment and sheer passion for her role as an astronaut. Sally went on to say, “I like the job so much I can’t believe they’re paying me to do it.”
Sally Ride’s contributions to space exploration and her trailblazing achievements as a woman in a male-dominated field have made her a hero and an inspiration to people around the world. But her legacy goes beyond her accomplishments in space. She was also an advocate for women’s equality, and a role model for young people of all genders, races, and backgrounds who aspire to achieve their dreams.
Although Sally Ride did not have children, her legacy lives on through the organization she co-founded, Sally Ride Science. The organization created entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, with a particular focus on girls. It is dedicated to inspiring young people, especially girls, to pursue careers in STEM fields, and to promoting STEM literacy and education. Sally Ride Science provides a wide range of educational resources and outreach programs, including summer camps, science festivals, and classroom materials, to help young people discover the excitement and possibilities of STEM.
Following her passing, in 2012, it was disclosed that Sally Ride had also quietly made history as the first astronaut who identified as LGBT, marking yet another significant milestone in her legacy of breaking barriers.
Sally Ride showed us that it’s possible to break down barriers and achieve great things, even in fields where women and minorities are underrepresented. In honor of the upcoming 40th anniversary of her first foray beyond the atmosphere — and Pride Month — let’s take a moment to remember this strong, brilliant, and inspiring woman who taught us that even the sky isn’t the limit to what you can achieve when you pursue your dreams with passion and dedication.
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Source: My Heritage