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NASA Education Mourns Death of Sally Ride
Sally Ride looks out the space shuttle window from the flight deck

On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space on the STS-7 space shuttle mission. Image Credit: NASA

On behalf of the entire NASA Education Family, I want to express our sadness at learning of Sally Ride's passing yesterday and extend our sincerest condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.

We all know that Sally holds an important place in U.S. history: In 1984, she became the first American woman in space when she flew on STS-7 aboard space shuttle Challenger. However, to those of us dedicated to using NASA program and mission content to inspire students, Sally was a different kind of hero.

Sally was a tireless advocate of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) since her days of flight. She wrote five science books for children to share with them the excitement that comes with discovery. In 2001, Sally established a nonprofit organization called Sally Ride Science, and, through that, she reached thousands of students, particularly girls.

When Sally Ride began her career, science and engineering were not fields that most girls considered pursuing. Her historic flight was a catalyst that slowly, but steadily, began to change those career perceptions. She empowered girls and helped them realize that they were equals and could pursue any dream that captivated them.

I had the privilege of working with Sally on a number of educational efforts, most recently this spring and summer with NASA’s GRAIL mission and its student MoonKAM project. MoonKAM stands for Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students. She championed the broad student involvement in that lunar mission, from the Montana students who named GRAIL twin spacecraft Ebb and Flow, to the student projects that resulted from their opportunities to view the moon through those cameras. I had the pleasure of attending the MoonKAM Expo here in Washington on June 1 and had a chance to interact with about 30 MoonKAM students -- it was an amazing experience. They developed real science and math skills in a fun and interactive way through the MoonKAM project.

I think there were future NASA employees among those students, and we owe Sally a huge debt of gratitude. She even participated in the MoonKAM Expo via Skype, which showed her dedication and commitment to engaging students in STEM.

The NASA Education Family mourns Sally's passing, but we remain committed to the same goal: to engage students, especially young women, in activities that show them the excitement and fulfillment that science and other STEM studies can offer. I can think of no better way to honor her than to help carry on her legacy of inspiration.

Godspeed, Sally.

Leland D. Melvin
Associate Administrator for Education