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Sally Ride - Reaching for the Stars

Physicist Sally Kristen Ride was the very first female US astronaut in space and the youngest astronaut to leave Earth at age thirty two

By AlexRider Sat 30 Jan, 2021 1:24 PM - Last Updated: Mon 01 Feb, 2021 5:50 PM
Physicist Sally Kristen Ride (1951 – 2012) was the very first female US astronaut as well as the third woman, in space after Valentina Tereshkova and Svetlana Savitskaya, two cosmonauts of the former USSR. She remains the youngest astronaut to have travelled to the stars at the age of 32 and thus was able to prove that girls and women are able to reach for these stars too.

Ms. Ride was bornSR3
USPS Dedication Ceremony for the issue
of the Sally Ride Forever Stamp.
on 26 May 1951, in Los Angeles, California, to Dale Burdell Ride and his wife Carol Joyce Ride. Sally had a sibling, Karen. After school she studied physics at Swarthmore College before entering Stanford University where she earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree as well as a PhD in physics in 1978.

Sally was always interested in science, but she was also very much into sports. She became a talented tennis player and took part in countrywide competitions, but as she grew older she had to make a decision which path to follow and chose science. The famously quotable Ms. Ride stated later that she only became an astronaut because her tennis backhand was too weak.

Shortly before graduating and earning her PhD she read about an advert in a newspaper. NASA was looking for recruits for their 8th astronaut training class. Both men and women were allowed to apply so she was among the 8000 people trying their best. NASA accepted her and thirty fourSR2b
Sally Ride on the cover of
Newsweek, June 13, 1983.

Her class (six women and twenty nine men) trained very hard and Sally Ride, due to her extraordinary nerve strength, became Capsule Communicator (CapCom) during space flights two and three. On the seventh shuttle mission (STS-7), however, she would be one of the crew members on board – aged 32.

She and her colleagues embarked on that historical mission in June 1983 and stayed among the stars for six days. One year later Ms. Ride’s second space mission took place. Shortly before her third space trip a horrible catastrophe occurred. On 28 January 1986 the spacecraft “Challenger” exploded 73 seconds after liftoff. The entire crew was killed instantly and among them were several members of Sally’s astronaut class – people she was friends with.

Sally Ride’s third space mission was cancelled. Instead she followed President Ronald Reagan’s call and became member of an investigative commission that had the task to find answers and reasons for this tragedy. Ride did not hesitate to ask uncomfortable and difficult questions, nor wasn’t she afraid to sue her employer, NASA. The commission concluded that faulty sealing rings had caused Challenger’s terrible explosion. Only decades later it was revealed that much of this decisive information had been provided by Ms. Ride herself.

She left NASA in 1987 and became a professor in San Diego. At the same time she founded “Sally Ride Science”, a non-profit organization that tries to bring young girls closer to science. Additionally she wrote many science books for children – most of them together with her co-author Tam O’Shaughnessy, a professor for psychology in San Diego.SR1b
Sally Ride, left, and her partner,
Tam O'Shaughnessy, discuss the role of
women in science in 2008.

Both women had known each other since their youth as tennis players. Only after Sally Ride had died di the public found out that they hadn’t been just good friends, but had lived together in a romantic relationship for more than thirty years.

At age 60, Sally was diagnosed pancreatic cancer and died only seventeen months later on 23 July 2012. President Barrack Obama posthumously awarded her with the “Presidential Medal of Freedom”, saying “We remember Sally Ride not just as a national hero, but as a role model to generations of young women. Sally inspired us to reach for the stars, and she advocated for a greater focus on the science, technology, engineering and math that would help us get there. Sally showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve, and I look forward to welcoming her family to the White House as we celebrate her life and legacy.”

Her name is still present in popular culture. She is mentioned in Billy Joel’s song “We Didn’t Start The Fire” from 1989 and her space flight is the key element of the novel “Our Lady of the Inferno” from 2016.

Sally Ride can also be found in Star Trek Online as there is a ship in the Beta Quadrant outside the Nerendra System. If approached in sector space players of any faction will be receive the USS Sally Ride as an admiralty card.

Let us know your opinion. Do you have the USS Sally Ride in your STO admiralty card collection?

WRITTEN BY: Lt. Commander AlexRider
Sun 31 Jan, 2021 4:28 PM
I can't believe I didn't know this story. What a National Treasure. I showed this article to my daughter and felt embarrassed I hadn't before.
Sun 31 Jan, 2021 6:44 PM
That's a very well written and researched article there Alex. I didn't realise that the USS Sally Ride in STO was actually named after a real person.
Fri 19 Feb, 2021 5:54 PM
So that's why the Intrepid class in STO (U.S.S. Sally ride) is named like that, thanks for sharing it's always good to learn more specialy when a game actually honors history, well done.
Fri 19 Feb, 2021 9:07 PM
An interesting article😊