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This Month in History: Sally Ride — June 18, 2022

This Month in History: Sally Ride

By: Delanee Ensley

This day in history marks the first American woman in space, and her incredible journey to get there!

Sally Ride was born on May 26, 1951 in Encino, California. She excelled in tennis and even wanted to be a pro tennis player! According to Women’s History, she ranked top 20 nationally on the junior tennis circuit. After she graduated from high school she went on to attend Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, however, she left during Sophomore year to pursue tennis, but left tennis after three months realizing that she wanted to pursue education. However, instead of going back to Swarthmore College, she got into Stanford University. Ride got her Bachelor of Science in Physics in 1973, and went on to get her masters and doctorate in 1975 and 1978.

During college Sally Ride answered a newspaper ad from NASA, one of 8,000 responders, 1,000 of whom were women, as stated by National Women’s Hall of Fame. Only 35 people were chosen, and out of those thirty-five only six were female, Sally Ride was one of them. Ride excelled as an astronaut, she has a great athletic ability from her years in tennis, and on June 18, 1983 she became the first American woman in space. On her first shuttle launch she was on the Challenger STS-7 as a flight engineer, her second, and last trip was on the STS-41G on October 5, 1984. She was scheduled to go on another mission but it was canceled due to the explosion of the Challenger, and was part of the presidential commission investigating the explosion.

After leaving NASA she went to the University of California in San Diego to become the Director of the Space Science Institute, and was also a physicist and a physics professor. She was also a co-writer of 7 children’s books with her life partner Tam O’Shaughnessy according to USC San Diego. Though Sally Ride did not discuss her personal life very much she was married to Steve Hawley from 1982 to 1987. 

Ride died on July 23, 2012 after losing a 17-month-long battle to Pancreatic Cancer, she was only 61 years old. After her death Tam O’Shaughnessy came forward about their 27 year long relationship, where they had first met when they played tennis together in their younger years. Sally Ride has been acknowledged as the first gay astronaut. In 2013 Obama gave Ride the Medal of Freedom and O’Shaughnessy accepted it in her honor.

Sally Ride broke a lot of ceilings for women everywhere, and still continues to be the first American woman to go to space, which is why we celebrate her this month!