Sally Ride
Ride on July 10, 1984
Sally Kristen Ride

(1951-05-26)May 26, 1951
Encino, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedJuly 23, 2012(2012-07-23) (aged 61)
La Jolla, California, U.S.
EducationStanford University (BS Physics / BA English; MS Physics; Ph.D. Physics)
(m. 1982; div. 1987)
PartnerTam O'Shaughnessy (1985–2012; Ride's death)
Space career
NASA astronaut
Time in space
14d 07h 46m
Selection1978 NASA Group
MissionsSTS-7, STS-41-G
Mission insignia
RetirementAugust 15, 1987

Sally Kristen Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012) was an American physicist and astronaut. Born in Los Angeles, she joined NASA in 1978 and became the first American woman in space in 1983. Ride was the third woman in space overall, after USSR cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova (1963) and Svetlana Savitskaya (1982). Ride remains the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space, having done so at the age of 32.[1][2] After flying twice on the Orbiter Challenger, she left NASA in 1987. She worked for two years at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Arms Control, then at the University of California, San Diego as a professor of physics, primarily researching nonlinear optics and Thomson scattering. She served on the committees that investigated the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, the only person to participate in both.[3][4] Ride died of pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012.

Early life

The elder child of Dale Burdell Ride and Carol Joyce Ride (née Anderson), Ride was born in Los Angeles. She had one sibling, Karen "Bear" Ride, who is a Presbyterian minister. Both parents were elders in the Presbyterian Church. Ride's mother had worked as a volunteer counselor at a women's correctional facility. Her father had been a political science professor at Santa Monica College.[3]

Ride attended Portola Junior High (now Portola Middle School) and then Birmingham High School before graduating from the private Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles on a scholarship.[3] In addition to being interested in science, she was a nationally ranked tennis player. Ride attended Swarthmore College for three semesters, took physics courses at University of California, Los Angeles, and then entered Stanford University as a junior, graduating with a bachelor's degree in English and physics. At Stanford, she earned a master's degree in 1975 and a PhD in physics in 1978 while doing research on the interaction of X-rays with the interstellar medium.[5] Astrophysics and free electron lasers were her specific areas of study.[6]

NASA career

Ride on Challenger's mid-deck during STS-7 in 1983

Ride was one of 8,000 people who answered an advertisement in the Stanford student newspaper seeking applicants for the space program.[7] She was chosen to join NASA in 1978.[8] During her career, Ride served as the ground-based capsule communicator (CapCom) for the second and third space shuttle flights (STS-2 and STS-3) and helped develop the space shuttle's "Canadarm" robot arm.[8]

Prior to her first space flight, she was subject to media attention due to her gender. During a press conference, she was asked questions such as, "Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?" and "Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?" Despite this and the historical significance of the mission, Ride insisted that she saw herself in only one way—as an astronaut.[8] On June 18, 1983, she became the first American woman in space as a crew member on space shuttle Challenger for STS-7. She was preceded by two Soviet women, Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 and Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982. The five-person crew of the STS-7 mission deployed two communications satellites and conducted pharmaceutical experiments. Ride was the first woman to use the robot arm in space and the first to use the arm to retrieve a satellite.[5]

Her second space flight was in 1984, also on board the Challenger. She spent a total of more than 343 hours in space. Ride had completed eight months of training for her third flight (STS-61-M, a TDRS deployment mission) when the space shuttle Challenger disaster occurred. She was named to the Rogers Commission (the presidential commission investigating the accident) and headed its subcommittee on operations. She was the only person to serve on both of the panels investigating shuttle accidents (those for the Challenger accident and later the Columbia disaster). Following the Challenger investigation, Ride was assigned to NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she led NASA's first strategic planning effort, authored a report titled "NASA Leadership and America's Future in Space" and founded NASA's Office of Exploration.[5] After Sally Ride's death in 2012, General Donald Kutyna revealed that she had discreetly provided him with key information about O-rings (namely, that they become stiff at low temperatures) that eventually led to identification of the cause of the explosion.[9]

After NASA

Sally Ride takes questions at the White House Astronomy Night (2009)

In 1987, Ride left her position in Washington, D.C., to work at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms Control. In 1989, she became a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, and director of the California Space Institute. From the mid-1990s until her death, Ride led two public-outreach programs for NASA—the ISS EarthKAM and GRAIL MoonKAM projects, in cooperation with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and UCSD. The programs allowed middle school students to request images of the Earth[10] and moon.[11] In 1999, she acted in the season 5 finale of Touched by an Angel, titled "Godspeed".[citation needed] In 2003, she was asked to serve on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. She was the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a company she co-founded in 2001 that creates entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, with a particular focus on girls.[12][13][14]

According to Roger Boisjoly, the engineer who warned of the technical problems that led to the Challenger disaster, after the entire workforce of Morton-Thiokol shunned him Ride was the only public figure to show support for him when he went public with his pre-disaster warnings. Sally Ride hugged him publicly to show her support for his efforts.[15]

Ride wrote or co-wrote seven books[16] on space aimed at children, with the goal of encouraging children to study science.[17][18]

Ride endorsed Barack Obama for U.S. President in 2008.[19][20] She was a member of the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee, an independent review requested by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on May 7, 2009.

Personal life

Sally Ride while promoting the Sally Ride Science Festival at UCSD in 2006

Ride was extremely private about her personal life. In 1982, she married fellow NASA astronaut Steve Hawley. They divorced in 1987.[21]

After Ride's death, her obituary revealed that her partner of 27 years was Tam O'Shaughnessy, a professor emerita of school psychology at San Diego State University and childhood friend, who met her when both were aspiring tennis players.[22][23] O'Shaughnessy was also a science writer and, later, the co-founder of Sally Ride Science.[24][25] O'Shaughnessy now serves as the Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Board of Sally Ride Science.[26] They wrote six acclaimed children's science books together.[16] Their relationship was revealed by the company and confirmed by her sister, who said she chose to keep her personal life private, including her sickness and treatments.[27][28] She is the first known LGBT astronaut.[29][30]

Ride died on July 23, 2012, at the age of 61, in her home in La Jolla, California,[31] seventeen months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.[3][32][33][34] Following cremation, her ashes were interred next to her father[35] at Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery, Santa Monica.

Awards and honors

Sally Ride communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck during the six-day mission in Challenger, 1983.

Ride received numerous awards throughout her lifetime and after. She received the National Space Society's von Braun Award, the Lindbergh Eagle, and the NCAA's Theodore Roosevelt Award. She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame and was awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal twice. Two elementary schools in the United States are named after her: Sally Ride Elementary School in The Woodlands, Texas, and Sally Ride Elementary School in Germantown, Maryland.[5]

In 1994, Ride received the Samuel S. Beard Award for Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Under, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[36]

On December 6, 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver inducted Ride into the California Hall of Fame at the California Museum for History, Women, and the Arts.[37] The following year, she was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio.

Ride directed public outreach and educational programs for NASA's GRAIL mission, which sent twin satellites to map the moon’s gravity. On December 17, 2012, the two GRAIL probes, Ebb and Flow, were directed to complete their mission by crashing on an unnamed lunar mountain near the crater Goldschmidt. NASA announced that it was naming the landing site in honor of Sally Ride.[38][39]

In 2013, Flying magazine ranked Ride at number 50 on their list of the "51 Heroes of Aviation".[40]

In 2013, the Space Foundation bestowed upon Ride its highest honor, the General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award.[41]

In April 2013, the U.S. Navy announced that a research ship would be named in honor of Ride.[42] This was done in 2014 with the christening of the oceanographic research vessel RV Sally Ride (AGOR-28).[43]

On May 20, 2013, a "National Tribute to Sally Ride" was held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. On the same day, President Barack Obama announced that Ride would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. The medal was presented to her life partner Tam O'Shaughnessy in a ceremony at the White House on November 20, 2013.[44][45]

In 2014, Ride was inducted into the Legacy Walk, an outdoor public display that celebrates LGBT history and people.[46][47]

In 2017, a Google Doodle honored her on International Women's Day.[48]

In 2018, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp honoring Ride.[49]

In pop culture

In 2013, Janelle Monáe released a song called "Sally Ride".[50] Also in 2013, astronauts Chris Hadfield and Catherine Coleman performed a song called "Ride On".[51]

In 2017, a "Women of NASA" LEGO set went on sale featuring (among other things) mini-figurines of Ride, Margaret Hamilton, Mae Jemison, and Nancy Grace Roman.[52]

See also


  1. ^ "Kennedy Space Center FAQ". NASA/Kennedy Space Center External Relations and Business Development Directorate. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  2. ^ "10 fascinating things about Astronaut Sally Ride you must know". May 26, 2015. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d Grady, Denise (July 23, 2012). "Obituary: American Woman Who Shattered Space Ceiling". The New York Times. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  4. ^ See Rogers Commission Report and Columbia Accident Investigation Board
  5. ^ a b c d "Biographical Data: Sally K. Ride, Ph.D". NASA. July 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  6. ^ Knapp, Alex (July 23, 2012). "Sally Ride, First American Woman In Space, Dead At 61". Forbes. Business Source Elite.
  7. ^ "Dr. Sally Ride". NASA. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c Ryan, Michael. "A Ride in Space – NASA, Sally Ride". People. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  9. ^ "An Oral History Of The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster". Popular Mechanics. January 28, 2016. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  10. ^ "EarthKAM (Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students)". Sally Ride Science. Archived from the original on July 29, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2012. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  11. ^ "GRAIL MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students)". Sally Ride Science. Archived from the original on August 1, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2012. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  12. ^ Majors, Dan (September 26, 2007). "Sally Ride touts science careers for women". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
  13. ^ Kesner, Kenneth (2007). "Sally Ride Festival geared for girls". The Huntsville Times. Archived from the original on December 9, 2012. Retrieved October 7, 2007. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  14. ^ Busby, Guy (July 29, 2012). "Sally Ride program blasts kids into science". Press-Register. Mobile, Alabama. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  15. ^ Martin, Douglas (February 3, 2012). "Roger Boisjoly, 73, Dies; Warned of Shuttle Danger". The New York Times. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  16. ^ a b "Books". Sally Ride Science. Archived from the original on December 16, 2013. Retrieved December 26, 2012. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help) Mission: Planet Earth is two books, making the total five.
  17. ^ "Sally Ride Science Brings Cutting-Edge Science to the Classroom with New Content Rich Classroom Sets" (Press release). Sally Ride Science. September 27, 2007. Archived from the original on October 10, 2007. Retrieved October 7, 2007. ((cite press release)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  18. ^ Heinrichs, Allison M. (2007). "Sally Ride encourages girls to engineer careers". Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Archived from the original on November 20, 2007. Retrieved October 7, 2007. ((cite news)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  19. ^ Foust, Jeff (October 29, 2008). "Sally Ride endorses Obama". Retrieved June 27, 2010.
  20. ^ Ride, Sally (October 29, 2008). "Inspired kids will reach for stars under Obama". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  21. ^ Garcia, Guy D.; Thigpen, David E. (June 8, 1987). "People: June 8, 1987". Time. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  22. ^ "Sally Ride, First American Woman In Space, Revealed To Have Female Partner Of 27 Years". The Huffington Post. July 23, 2012. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  23. ^ Giorgis, Cyndi; Johnson, Nancy J. (March 1, 2009). "Talking with Sally Ride and Tam O'Shaughnessy". American Library Association. Sally Ride Science. Archived from the original on May 16, 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2012. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  24. ^ Grady, Denise (July 23, 2012). "Sally Ride, Trailblazing Astronaut, Dies at 61". The New York Times. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  25. ^ Tam O'Shaughnessy biography on the Sally Ride Science website Archived August 19, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved Dec. 11, 2016.
  26. ^ "Management Team". Sally Ride Science. Archived from the original on October 5, 2013. Retrieved November 2, 2013. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  27. ^ Abdill, Rich (July 23, 2012). "Sally Ride Revealed to Be Gay: Her Sister, on Ride's Life, Death, and Desires for Privacy". The New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  28. ^ Adams Sheets, Connor (July 23, 2012). "Tam O'Shaughnessy: About Sally Ride's Partner Of 27 Years". The International Business Times. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  29. ^ Garofoli, Joe (July 25, 2012). "Sally Ride never hid, was 'just private'". San Francisco Chronicle: SFGate. Retrieved October 29, 2012.
  30. ^ "Ernie Banks Was the First Black Player to Sign with the Chicago Cubs". Chicago, Illinois: North Star News. August 13, 2013. Archived from the original on February 3, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2014. ((cite news)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  31. ^ Former Astronaut Sally Ride Dies in La Jolla | NBC 7 San Diego Retrieved 2016-12-28.
  32. ^ "Sally Ride, the first US woman in space, dies aged 61". BBC News. July 23, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  33. ^ "Sally Ride, first American woman in space, dies". CNN. July 24, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  34. ^ William Harwood (July 23, 2012). "Sally Ride, first American woman in space, dies at 61". CNET. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  35. ^ "Barrier-Breaking Astronaut Interred at Santa Monica's Woodlawn Cemetery". Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  36. ^ "National Winners | public service awards". Jefferson Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  37. ^ "Sally Ride". The California Museum. 2006. Retrieved May 27, 2009.
  38. ^ NASA's Grail Lunar Impact Site Named for Astronaut Sally Ride December 17, 2012
  39. ^ "Moon Probes' Crash Site Named After Sally Ride". December 17, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  40. ^ "51 Heroes of Aviation". Flying Magazine. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
  41. ^ "Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride Are 2013 General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award Honorees" (Press release). Colorado Springs, Colorado: Space Foundation. December 10, 2012. Archived from the original on June 3, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2013. ((cite press release)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  42. ^ Clark, Cindy (April 16, 2013). "Navy Names New Scripps Research Vessel to Honor Legacy of Space Explorer Sally Ride" (Press release). Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  43. ^ "Navy christens new research ship for Sally Ride, first US woman in space". August 10, 2014. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
  44. ^ "Obama to honor Sally Ride, first US woman in space, with posthumous Medal of Freedom". Star Tribune. May 20, 2013. Retrieved May 21, 2013.[dead link]
  45. ^ "President Obama Awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to Sally Ride". November 20, 2013. Archived from the original on March 24, 2016. Retrieved September 24, 2016. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  46. ^ "Legacy Walk honors LGBT 'guardian angels'". Chicago Tribune. October 11, 2014.
  47. ^ Reynolds, Daniel. "PHOTOS: 7 LGBT Heroes Honored With Plaques in Chicago's Legacy Walk". The Advocate.
  48. ^ "International Women's Day". Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  49. ^ "Today's Tidbits: May 23, 2018".
  50. ^ "Janelle Monae – Sally Ride Lyrics". Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  51. ^ Jaworski, Michelle (January 16, 2013). "8 reasons Chris Hadfield is the coolest astronaut on the Web". Retrieved February 19, 2014.
  52. ^ Science (June 22, 2017). "Women of NASA Lego toy set now on sale for $24.99". Business Insider. Retrieved November 1, 2017.


  • Ride, Sally. Single Room, Earth View (expository essay). Sally Ride.
  • Ride, Sally; Okie, Susan (1989). To Space and Back. New York: HarperTrophy. pp. 96 pages. ISBN 0-688-09112-1.
  • Ride, Sally; O'Shaughnessy, Tam E. (1992). Voyager: An Adventure to the Edge of the Solar System. Sally Ride Science. pp. 40 pages. ISBN 0-517-58157-4.
  • Ride, Sally; O'Shaughnessy, Tam E. (1999). The Mystery of Mars. [New York]: Crown. pp. 48 pages. ISBN 0-517-70971-6.
  • Ride, Sally; O'Shaughnessy, Tam E. (2003). Exploring our Solar System. New York: Crown Publishers. pp. 112 pages. ISBN 0-375-81204-0.
  • Ride, Sally; O'Shaughnessy, Tam E. (2004). The Third Planet: Exploring the Earth from Space. Sally Ride Science. pp. 48 pages. ISBN 0-9753920-0-X.
  • Sally Ride Science (2004). What Do You Want to Be? Explore Space Sciences. Sally Ride Science. pp. 32 pages. ISBN 0-9753920-1-8.
  • Ride, Sally; Goldsmith, Mike (2005). Space (Kingfisher Voyages). London: Kingfisher. pp. 60 pages. ISBN 0-7534-5910-8.
  • Ride, Sally; O'Shaughnessy, Tam E. (2009). Mission planet Earth: our world and its climate—and how humans are changing them. New York: Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press. p. 80. ISBN 1-59643-310-8.
  • Ride, Sally; O'Shaughnessy, Tam E. (2009). Mission—save the planet: things you can do to help fight global warming. New York: Roaring Brook Press. p. 64. ISBN 1-59643-379-5.
  • Sherr, Lynn (2014). Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space. Simon & Schuster. p. 400. ASIN B00GEEB99W.
  • Knapp, Alex (July 23, 2012). "Sally Ride, First American Woman In Space, Dead At 61". Forbes. Business Source Elite.