Sally Ride is known all over the world as the first American woman in space. In 1983 when Sally entered space, she was the youngest American of her time, to achieve this feat. A former astronaut of NASA, she is also a renowned American physicist.
Carol Joyce and Dale Burdell Ride welcomed their first child, Sally Kristen Ride, on May 26, 1951 in Los Angeles, California. Sally was a brilliant student. She finished school from Portola Middle School and Westlake School for Girls, on a scholarship. Since her schooldays, she was very interested in Science. She graduated with English and Physics majors from Stanford University. She went on to acquire her Master's degree and Ph.D. in Physics from the same university. During her Ph.D., her field of research was astrophysics, and Free-electron Laser Physics.
Even as a child, Sally was drawn towards space exploration. Her dream to be a part of NASA came true in the year 1978. After the completion of her initial training at NASA, Sally served as Capsule Communicator (the person who interacts with the crew members of a spaceship) for two space shuttle flights. She also helped both the space shuttle flights STS-1 and STS-2 (the acronym STS stands for Space Transportation System), in the development of their mechanical arm, also called the robot arm.
On June 18, 1983, Sally became a part of the five-member crew for STS-7, and boarded the Space Shuttle Challenger. During their 6-day mission, she and her crew used the robot arm in space for the first time. They recovered a satellite with the help of the robot arm. They also positioned two new communication satellites for the Canadian, and Indonesian governments, and carried out a number of pharmaceutical-related research experiments.
Sally became a part of the space mission for the second time on October 5, 1984. This time she was on board the Space Shuttle Challenger, with six other crew members for STS 41-G. It was the largest crew that NASA had ever sent. Her role in the mission was that of a mission specialist. It was a 8-day mission where the crew placed satellites in orbit, used newly formatted cameras to make observations of the Earth, and implemented a novel method to refuel artificial satellites. The mission ended on October 13, 1984, when the Challenger returned safely with the crew at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the course of the two missions, Sally spent a total of almost 343 hours in space.
She resigned from NASA in 1987, and joined the University Center for International Security and Arms Control. Later in 1989, she started her new career as a professor of Physics at the California University, San Diego, and also became the Director of California Space Institute. In 2001, she started her own company, Sally Ride Science. It dealt with the designing of various types of Science programs, and publications for school children. These programs are specially oriented towards encouraging girl students to become interested in Science.
She has received multiple awards. She received NASA's Space Flight Medal twice. She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and Astronaut Hall of Fame. She was also a part of the investigating board that conducted the inquiry into the tragic accident of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.
During her childhood, Sally was also very passionate about tennis. She was a national level tennis player. She even left her graduation studies halfway, to focus on her career in tennis. But, after a few months of training, she realized that she did not want to pursue a professional career in tennis and went back to concentrate on her studies. She got married to a fellow astronaut Steve Hawley in 1982. But their marriage did not last long and the couple parted ways with a divorce in 1987.
Sally Ride achieved great heights, and was the role model for a lot of women of her generation. Her cumulative contribution in space exploration, and astrophysics will help the young scientists of future generations in many ways.