Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tonight's Sky for June 18: First American Woman in Space (1983)


On this date 31 years ago, Sally Ride became the first woman to enter space, which she did on the STS-7 mission flown by the space shuttle Challenger.

Sally Ride was born in 1951 in California and grew up with a fascination in 
science, which she credited her parents for encouraging. It was in 1977 as she was completing her doctorate that Ride saw an ad in the Stanford University student newspaper stating that NASA was, for the first time, going to start considering non-military applicants for its astronaut training program. Up until that time, all astronauts had been military test pilots, and male.With this new opening to civilians, NASA was flooded with over 8,000 applications, from which it selected a mete 35 astronaut candidates, with Ride being among the lucky few. Ride's training program commenced in 1978, with certification being completed a year later.

However, Ride would have to wait 4 years to fly, when she was assigned as a mission specialist aboard the STS-7 mission on the shuttle Challenger. It was on June 23, 1983, that Ride broke the gender barrier by becoming the first American woman in space. At the time, according to Ride, the feat was not not on her mind but, only with the passage of time, did her accomplishment really begin to sink in. Ride would fly into space once more a year later before retiring from NASA in 1987.

After NASA, Ride used her immense science credentials to make a career for herself in academic as both a consultant, researcher, and professor. What could be considered the crowning achievement of Ride's non-astronaut career came in 2001 when she founded Sally Ride Science, a company that promotes science education through creation of classroom materials and programs as well as professional development for science teachers, all while continuing to serve as a consultant for various organizations.

Ride died of cancer on July 23, 2012.

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