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Sally Kristen Ride

Every day, children all over the world dream of becoming an astronaut and flying into space. At the age of 32, Sally Kristen Ride made that dream come true. Born on May 26, 1951, in Encino, California, Sally Kristin Ride was the eldest of two daughters born to Dale and Joyce Ride. Sally’s passion was tennis, for which she received a scholarship to Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles. She graduated from high school in 1968 and pursued a career in professional tennis. After a grueling three months of practice, she decided she wasn’t good enough to become professional, so she quit. Ride enrolled at Stanford University where she received her B.A., B.S., and masters’ degrees by the time she was 27 years old. Interested in the study of astrophysics, Ride applied to NASA. Out of 8,000 applications, 35 people — including Ride — were accepted to the program. In 1977, Ride entered NASA to begin a training and evaluation period. She completed her training in August 1979, thus making her a candidate for future shuttle missions. During 1981 and 1982, Ride worked in Mission Control as a communications officer relaying radio messages to the second and third flights of the shuttle Columbia. Sally Ride While awaiting her turn to travel on the shuttle, Ride, along with a team of other experts, designed a robotic arm for shuttle crews to deploy and retrieve satellites. In 1982, Ride married fellow astronaut Alan Hawley; they divorced in 1987. In 1983, Ride boarded the Challenger STS-7 as a mission specialist. She was the first American woman astronaut in space. Her duties included testing the robot arm she helped design as well as assisting the shuttle pilot during ascent, and acting as a flight engineer. The mission lasted six days, and was responsible for deploying satellites for Canada and Indonesia. Ride's second mission was in 1984 aboard the shuttle STS 41-G, along with six other astronauts — the largest crew launched to date. Ride served as a mission specialist on that eight-day mission, which deployed the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite and conducted scientific observations of the earth with a large-format camera. Ride began training for her third mission during 1985 and 1986. When the shuttle Challenger exploded in space, her training was canceled. To help aid in the investigation of the disaster, Ride was appointed to the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident. In 1986, when the investigation was over, Ride moved to NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and became the assistant to the NASA Administrator for Long-Range Planning. While in that capacity, Ride created the NASA Office of Exploration and prepared a report on the future of space programs, entitled Leadership and America’s Future in Space. That also was the year Ride published her first book, To Space and Back. In 1987, Ride retired from NASA and returned to California, where she accepted a science fellowship at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University. She worked at Stanford for two years, then accepted the directorship of the California Space Institute. She also worked as a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. In June 1999 Ride became Executive Vice President and board member of space.com, a website dedicated to the space industry. In September 1999 she was named president of the company and served until September of 2000. When Ride left space.com, she created EarthKAM, which is an Internet-based NASA program designed for middle-school children. It allows students to shoot pictures of the earth and download them to their classrooms. Ride also founded an organization called Imaginary Lines, which provides support to young women who wish to study science, math and technology, through a project called the Sally Ride Club. Throughout her life, Ride has received several awards, including the Jefferson Award for Public Service and the Women’s Research and Education Institute’s American Woman Award. On June 21, 2003, Ride was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

For additional famous women, see Important and Famous Women in America.