Sally Ride – The First American Woman In Space
Sally Ride was born on May 26, 1951, in Encino, California. As a young girl, Sally was fascinated by science. She credited her parents with encouraging her interests. Sally grew up playing with a chemistry set and a telescope. She also grew up playing sports. She competed in national junior tennis tournaments and was good enough to win a tennis scholarship to Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles. In 1977, Sally Ride already had degrees in physics and English from Stanford University and was about to finish her Ph.D. in physics. She saw an article in the Stanford student newspaper saying that NASA was looking for astronauts. Up until then, most astronauts had been military pilots, and they all had been male. But now NASA was looking for scientists and engineers, and was allowing women to apply. Sally immediately sent in her application, along with 8,000 other people.
From that group, 35 new astronauts, including six women, were chosen to join the astronaut corps. NASA selected Sally as an astronaut candidate in January 1978. In August 1979, after a yearlong training and evaluation period, Sally became eligible for assignment as an astronaut on a space shuttle flight crew. She was selected as a mission specialist for mission STS-7 aboard the shuttle Challenger. When Challenger blasted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride soared into history as the first American woman in space. Accompanying Sally aboard Challenger were Captain Robert L. Crippen, the spacecraft commander; Captain Fredrick H. Hauck, the pilot; and fellow mission specialists Colonel John M. Fabian and Dr. Norman E. Thagard. This was the second flight for the orbiter Challenger and the first mission with a five-person crew.
During the mission, the crew deployed satellites for Canada (ANIK C-2) and Indonesia (PALAPA B-1); operated the Canadian-built robot arm to perform the first deployment and retrieval with the Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS-01); conducted the first formation flying of the shuttle with a free-flying satellite (SPAS-01); carried and operated the first U.S./German cooperative materials science payload (OSTA-2); and operated the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES) and the Monodisperse Latex Reactor (MLR) experiments. The crew also activated seven Getaway Specials—small experiments sent into space by private individuals or groups. The mission lasted 147 hours before Challenger landed on a lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on June 24. Sally retired from NASA in 1987. She became a science fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University. In 1989, Sally joined the faculty at the University of California, San Diego as a professor of physics and director of the California Space Institute.
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