By Heather Burkhart
Following in the footsteps of Scientistas before you can be both a daring and challenging journey, but turning those footsteps into spacewalks is one of the rewarding destinations your determination could lead you. It certainly was for Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, whose resolve and adventurous spirit led to her ultimate aspiration, and the sky literally became her limit.
Sally Ride, known as an astronaut, physicist, and educator, was born on May 26, 1951. She began her academic career at Stanford where she earned a double bachelor’s degree in English and physics in 1973, along with a master’s degree in physics in 1975. It was in 1978, after earning her PhD that she blazed a fiery path past a candidate pool of 1,000 students who, like her, were hoping to obtain a spot in the highly sought-after astronaut program at NASA - a position that she achieved and soon began her training for.
On June 18, 1983, Ride defied tradition - and gravity - when she went aboard the Challenger and into history as a mission specialist doing things like deploying satellites. She continued this calling a second time in 1984, and was later scheduled for a third trip that was cancelled due to the 1986 Challenger tragedy, a circumstance she ended up investigating as part of a presidential commission.
Not only did Ride contribute an outstanding legacy to the NASA program and aspiring astronauts everywhere, but her work continued far beyond her performance above the atmosphere. In 1989, Ride became the director of the California Space Institute at the University of California, the school where she also started teaching as a professor of physics. Her work inspiring inquisitive minds didn’t stop there, however, and in 2001 she began Sally Ride Science, a company designed to encourage young women to pursue their goals in science and math. She was awarded many honors in her lifetime, two of which being the NASA Space Flight Medal and the NCAA's Theodore Roosevelt Award. She was also inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame, accomplishments rivaled only by the love and adoration of those who looked to her for inspiration.
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