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Sally Ride

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Sally Ride
Ride in 1984
Born Sally Kristen Ride
(1951-05-26)May 26, 1951
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died July 23, 2012(2012-07-23) (aged 61)
La Jolla, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Pancreatic cancer
Nationality American
  • BS Physics / BA English – Stanford University
  • MS Physics – Stanford University
  • Ph.D. Physics – Stanford University
Occupation Physicist
Spouse(s) Steven Hawley
(m. 1982–1987; divorced)
Partner(s) Tam O'Shaughnessy
(1985–2012; Ride's death)
  • Dale Burdell Ride
  • Carol Joyce (née Anderson)
Relatives Karen "Bear" Ride (sister)
NASA astronaut
Status Deceased
Time in space
14d 07h 46m
Selection 1978 NASA Group
Missions STS-7, STS-41-G
Mission insignia
Sts-7-patch.png STS-41-G patch.png
Retirement August 15, 1987

Sally Kristen Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012) was an American physicist and astronaut. Born in Los Angeles, Ride joined NASA in 1978 and, at the age of 32, became the first American woman in space and still remains the youngest American astronaut to travel to space.[1][2] After flying twice on the space shuttle Challenger, she left NASA in 1987. She worked for two years at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Arms Control, then the University of California, San Diego as a professor of physics, primarily researching non-linear optics and Thomson scattering. She served on the committees that investigated the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, the only person to participate on both.[3][4]

Early life and education

The elder child of Dale Burdell Ride and Carol Joyce (née Anderson), Ride was born in Los Angeles, California. 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 though graduating from Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles (now Harvard-Westlake School) 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 UCLA, 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 and a Ph.D. in physics while doing research on the interaction of X-rays with the interstellar medium.[5]

NASA career

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

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Ride was one of 8,000 people who answered an advertisement in the Stanford student newspaper seeking applicants for the space program.[6] She was chosen to join NASA in 1978.[7] 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 robot arm.[7]

Prior to her first space flight, she was subject to media attention due to her gender. During a press conference, she was asked questions like, "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.[7] 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, who had completed eight months of training for her third flight (STS-61-M, a TDRS deployment mission) when the space shuttle Challenger disaster occurred, was named to the Rogers Commission (the presidential commission investigating the accident) and headed its subcommittee on operations. Following the investigation, Ride was assigned to NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she led NASA's first strategic planning effort, authored a report entitled "NASA Leadership and America's Future in Space" and founded NASA's Office of Exploration.[5]

After NASA

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[8] and moon.[9] In 1999, she acted in the season 5 finale of Touched by an Angel, titled "Godspeed".[10] 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.[11][12]

According to Roger Boisjoly, the engineer who warned of the technical problems that led to the Challenger disaster, Ride was the only public figure to show support for him when he went public with his pre-disaster warnings (after the entire workforce of Morton-Thiokol shunned him). Sally Ride hugged him publicly to show her support for his efforts.[13]

Ride wrote or co-wrote seven books[14] on space aimed at children, with the goal of encouraging children to study science.[15][16]

Ride endorsed Barack Obama for U.S. President in 2008.[17] 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.


Ride died on July 23, 2012, at the age of 61, seventeen months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.[3][18][19][20] Following cremation, her ashes were interred next to her father[21] at Woodlawn Cemetery, Santa Monica, California.[22]

Personal life

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

Ride was extremely private about her personal life. She married fellow NASA astronaut Steve Hawley in 1982; they divorced in 1987.[23]

After death, her obituary revealed that Ride's partner of 27 years was Tam O'Shaughnessy, a professor emerita of school psychology at San Diego State University and childhood friend, who met Ride when both were aspiring tennis players.[24][25] O'Shaughnessy was also a science writer and, later, the co-founder of Sally Ride Science.[26][27] O'Shaughnessy now serves as the Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Board of Sally Ride Science.[28] O’Shaughnessy and Ride wrote six acclaimed children’s science books together.[14] Their relationship was revealed by the company and confirmed by Ride's sister, who said Ride chose to keep her personal life private, including her sickness and treatments.[29][30] Ride is the first known LGBT astronaut.[31][32]

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, including 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. Ride was the only person to serve on both of the panels investigating shuttle accidents (those for the Challenger accident and the Columbia disaster). Two elementary schools in the United States are named after her: Sally K. Ride Elementary School in The Woodlands, Texas, and Sally K. 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.[33]

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.[34] The following year, she became 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.[35][36] Flying magazine ranked Ride at number 50 on their list of the "51 Heroes of Aviation" in 2013.[37]


In April 2013, the U.S. Navy announced that a research ship would be named in honor of Sally Ride.[38] This was done in 2014 with the christening of the oceanographic research vessel R/V Sally Ride.[39]

In 2013, Janelle Monáe released a song called "Sally Ride".[40] Also in 2013, astronauts Chris Hadfield and Catherine Coleman performed a song called "Ride On."[41]

In 2013, the Space Foundation bestowed its highest honor, the General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award, on Sally Ride.[42]

On May 20, 2013, a National Tribute to Sally Ride was held at the 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 Ride's life partner Tam O'Shaughnessy in a ceremony at the White House on November 20, 2013.[43]

In 2014 Sally Ride was inducted into the Legacy Walk, an outdoor public display which celebrates LGBT history and people. [44][45]

See also


  1. ^ "Kennedy Space Center FAQ". NASA/Kennedy Space Center External Relations and Business Development Directorate. Retrieved July 23, 2012. 
  2. ^ Morrison, Patt (July 24, 2012). "Sally Ride's spaceflight was one giant leap for womankind". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 July 2012. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d Grady, Denise (July 23, 2012). "Obituary: American Woman Who Shattered Space Ceiling". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  4. ^ See Rogers Commission Report and Columbia Accident Investigation Board
  5. ^ a b c d NASA (2006). "Sally K. Ride, Ph.D Biography". NASA. Retrieved October 4, 2007. 
  6. ^ NASA. "Dr. Sally Ride". NASA. Retrieved October 7, 2007. 
  7. ^ a b c Ryan, Michael. "A Ride in Space – NASA, Sally Ride". Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  8. ^ "EarthKAM (Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students)". Sally Ride Science. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  9. ^ "GRAIL MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students)". Sally Ride Science. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  10. ^ "Touched by an Angel: Season 5, Episode 26 Godspeed (23 May 1999)". Retrieved 2013-12-16. 
  11. ^ Dan Majors (September 26, 2007). "Sally Ride touts science careers for women". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved October 7, 2007. 
  12. ^ Kenneth Kesner (2007). "Sally Ride Festival geared for girls". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved October 7, 2007. 
  13. ^ Roger Boisjoly, 73, Dies; Warned of Shuttle Danger, Douglas Martin, NY Times, February 3, 2012
  14. ^ a b "Books". Sally Ride Science. Retrieved 2012-12-26.  Mission: Planet Earth is two books, making the total five.
  15. ^ "Sally Ride Science Brings Cutting-Edge Science to the Classroom with New Content Rich Classroom Sets" (Press release). Sally Ride Science. September 27, 2007. Retrieved October 7, 2007. 
  16. ^ Allison M. Heinrichs (2007). "Sally Ride encourages girls to engineer careers". Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Retrieved October 7, 2007. 
  17. ^ "Sally Ride endorses Obama". 2008. Retrieved June 27, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Sally Ride, the first US woman in space, dies aged 61". BBC News Online. July 23, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Sally Ride, first American woman in space, dies". CNN. July 24, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  20. ^ William Harwood (July 23, 2012). "Sally Ride, first American woman in space, dies at 61". CNET. Retrieved July 23, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Barrier-Breaking Astronaut Interred at Santa Monica's Woodlawn Cemetery". Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  22. ^ "Sally Kristen Ride (1951–2012)". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  23. ^ Guy D. Garcia; David E. Thigpen (8 June 1987). "People: June 8, 1987". Time. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  24. ^ "Sally Ride, First American Woman In Space, Revealed To Have Female Partner Of 27 Years". The Huffington Post. July 23, 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  25. ^ Giorgis, Cyndi; Johnson, Nancy J. (March 1, 2009). "Talking with Sally Ride and Tam O'Shaughnessy". American Library Association. Sally Ride Science. Retrieved July 23, 2012. 
  26. ^ Denise Grady (23 July 2012). "Sally Ride, Trailblazing Astronaut, Dies at 61". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  27. ^ Tam O'Shaughnessy biography on the Sally Ride Science website. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  28. ^ "Management Team". Sally Ride Science. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  29. ^ 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 27 July 2012. 
  30. ^ Adams Sheets, Connor (July 23, 2012). "Tam O'Shaughnessy: About Sally Ride's Partner Of 27 Years". The International Business Times. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  31. ^ Joe Garofoli (25 July 2012). "Sally Ride never hid, was 'just private'". San Francisco Chronicle: SFGate. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  32. ^ "Ernie Banks Was the First Black Player to Sign with the Chicago Cubs". Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  33. ^ "National Winners | public service awards". Jefferson Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  34. ^ The California Museum (2006). "Sally Ride". The California Museum. Retrieved May 27, 2009. 
  35. ^ NASA's Grail Lunar Impact Site Named for Astronaut Sally Ride Dec. 17, 2012
  36. ^ "Moon Probes' Crash Site Named After Sally Ride". 2012-12-17. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  37. ^ "51 Heroes of Aviation". Flying Magazine. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  38. ^ Cindy Clark (April 16, 2013). "Navy Names New Scripps Research Vessel to Honor Legacy of Space Explorer Sally Ride". 
  39. ^ "Navy christens new research ship for Sally Ride, first US woman in space - collectSPACE". Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  40. ^ "Janelle Monae – Sally Ride Lyrics". 
  41. ^ Jaworski, Michelle (January 16, 2013). "8 reasons Chris Hadfield is the coolest astronaut on the Web". Retrieved Feb 19, 2014. 
  42. ^ "Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride Are 2013 General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award Honorees". Space Foundation. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  43. ^ "Obama to honor Sally Ride, first US woman in space, with posthumous Medal of Freedom". Star Tribune. 20 May 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  44. ^ "Legacy Walk honors LGBT 'guardian angels'". 11 October 2014. 
  45. ^ "PHOTOS: 7 LGBT Heroes Honored With Plaques in Chicago's Legacy Walk". 


  • 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 0517581574. 
  • 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. 

External links