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Who Was Sally Ride? (Grades 5-8)

This article is part of the NASA Knows! (Grades 5-8) series.

Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space. She was the founder of Sally Ride Science and the Sally Ride Science Festivals. She liked to run and play tennis, volleyball and softball. Ride wrote several science books for children. The books are about space exploration, Earth and the solar system.

What Was Sally Ride’s Early Life Like?

Sally Ride was born May 26, 1951, in Los Angeles, Calif. After high school, she attended Stanford University in California. She earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in physics. Physics is the study of matter and energy and how they interact.

How Did Sally Ride Become an Astronaut?

Sally Ride applied to be an astronaut in 1977. It was the first time that women were invited to apply to the astronaut program. Ride was a college student and saw an advertisement that NASA was looking for women astronauts. She was one of six women selected to the astronaut corps in 1978.

What Did Sally Ride Do as an Astronaut?

On June 18,1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space. She was a mission specialist on the STS-7 space shuttle mission. A mission specialist does the assigned tasks of a mission. These tasks include using the robotic arm, going on spacewalks and doing science experiments. During her flight, Ride worked the robotic arm to help release satellites into space. She flew on the space shuttle again in 1984 on the STS 41-G mission.

In 2003, Ride was inducted to the Astronaut Hall of Fame. The Astronaut Hall of Fame honors astronauts for their accomplishments in spaceflight. She was awarded the 2012 National Space Grant Distinguished Service Award.

June 18, 1983 Launch of STS-7

What Did Sally Ride Do After Leaving NASA?

Ride retired from NASA in 1987. She became a professor at the University of California San Diego. She also looked for new ways to encourage women and girls to study science and mathematics. She came up with the idea for NASA’s EarthKAM project. The project lets middle school students select, shoot, download and study photos of Earth using a camera on the International Space Station.

Until her death on July 23, 2012, Ride continued to help students – especially girls – study science and mathematics. She wrote science books and other things for students and teachers. She was involved in science programs and festivals around the United States.

Sally Ride (1951-2012)

More About Sally Ride

Video: Sally Ride Anniversary
Sally Ride: First American Woman in Space
Sally Ride Bio (PDF)
Sally Ride EarthKAM

Read Who Was Sally Ride? (Grades K-4)