Sad news for fans of the space program and feminists: the first American female astronaut, Sally Ride, has died at the age of 61 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Ride was born in Encino, California in 1951 and grew up there. By the time she answered a job ad by NASA in the late 1970s, she’d already racked up some impressive credentials. Ride had degrees in physics and English and was finishing up a Ph.D in physics at Stanford.
NASA decided she had the right stuff, and she went through a rigorous training program before being selected for the space shuttle program. She flew two missions on the Challenger in 1983 and 1984. She was assigned to a third in late 1985, which was halted after the tragic explosion of the Challenger in January 1986. Ride served on the Presidential Committee that investigated the accident. She also served on the committee that investigated the Columbia accident in 2003.
Ride retired from NASA in 1987 and taught physics at the University of California at San Diego, as well as serving as the director of the California Space Institute and a science fellow.at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University.
She founded Sally Ride Science to promote science and engineering careers to kids, especially girls. She co-authored seven books before passing away on July 23.