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Sally Kristen Ride, an American physicist and astronaut, became the first American woman in space in 1983. Ride was born in Los Angeles, California, and joined NASA in 1978. Ride was considered the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space by the age of 32. She left NASA in 1987. Ride died of pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012, in La Jolla, California.
See the fact file below for more information on the Dr. Sally Ride or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Dr. Sally Ride worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Sally Kristen Ride was born on May 26, 1951, in Los Angeles, California. She was the eldest child of Dale Burdell Ride and Carol Joyce and had one sibling, Karen “Bear” Ride, a Presbyterian minister.
- Sally Ride attended Portola Junior High and Birmingham High School. She also attended the private Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles with a scholarship.
- Sally Ride’s other interest was tennis and she was a nationally-ranked tennis player.
- Sally Ride attended Swarthmore College for three semesters then took a physics course at the University of California, Los Angeles. Later on she went to Stanford University, where she double majored in physics and English.
- She earned her master’s degree from Stanford University in 1975 and her PhD in physics in 1978. Her research comprised the interaction of X-rays with the interstellar medium.
CAREER IN NASA
- The NASA astronaut program called for applicants in 1978 and Ride was accepted that same year.
- Ride went through a rigorous training program and served as the ground-based capsule communicator (CapCom) for the STS-2 and STS-3, second and third space shuttle flights. She also helped develop the space shuttle’s robot arm, “Canadarm”.
- Ride became the first American woman in space on June 18, 1983, as a crew member on space shuttle Challenger.
- Though Ride was the first American woman in space, she was not the first woman in space. Ride was preceded by Soviet’s Valentina Tereshkova in 1963, as the first woman in space, and Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982, as the second woman in space.
- The Challenger’s five-person crew’s mission was to deploy two communications satellites as well as to conduct pharmaceutical experiments. The crew returned on June 24, 1983.
- Ride was the first woman to use the robot arm in space and the first to use the arm to retrieve a satellite. The arm was used to help put satellites into space.
- Ride’s second space flight was in 1984, also aboard the Challenger, where she served as a mission specialist.
- Ride’s third flight was cancelled due to the Challenger’s accident on January 28, 1986.
- After the disaster, Ride served on the Rogers Commission, a presidential commission that investigated the Challenger accident.
- After the investigation, Ride was assigned to lead NASA’s first strategic planning effort in NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
- They authored a report entitled ‘NASA Leadership and America’s Future in Space’ which led to the foundation of NASA’s Office of Exploration.
- Despite all of her achievements in NASA, Ride still faced media attention prior to her first flight regarding her gender.
- The media questioned if her body, as a female, would be affected differently to male astronauts once she was in space. She faced the issue bravely by stating that regardless of her gender, she was an ‘astronaut’.
LIFE AFTER NASA
- Ride left her job in Washington D.C. in 1987 and started to work at Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms Control.
- By 1989, she became a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, and became a director of the California Space Institute.
- Ride worked on two public-outreach programs for NASA: ISS EarthKAM and GRAIL MoonKAM.
- ISS EarthKAM provides middle school students with the ability to request pictures of Earth and the Moon using a camera on the International Space Station.
- In 2001, Ride co-founded Sally Ride Science and became its president and CEO. The company creates entertaining science programs for upper elementary and middle school students as well as publications. The company particularly focuses on girls.
- When the space shuttle Columbia accident occurred in 2003, Ride was asked to become part of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
- In 2003, Ride was honored as part of the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
- Ride also co-authored as well wrote books about space that aimed to encourage children to study science.
- On May 7, 2009, Ride became a member of the Review of United States Human Spaceflight Plans Committee.
- On July 23, 2012, Ride died at the age of 61 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She died in her home in La Jolla, California. She was cremated and her ashes are entombed at Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery, Santa Monica.
- From 1985 until her death, Ride’s partner of 27 years was Tam O’Shaughnessy. It was revealed after her death and was confirmed by her sister. O’Shaughnessy is an Emeritus Professor of School Psychology at San Diego State University. They met when they were both aspiring tennis players.
Dr. Sally Ride Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Dr. Sally Ride across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Dr. Sally Ride worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Sally Kristen Ride, an American physicist and astronaut, who became the first American woman in space in 1983. Ride was born in Los Angeles, California, and joined NASA in 1978. Ride was considered the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space by the age of 32. She left NASA in 1987. Ride died of pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012, in La Jolla, California.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Dr. Sally Ride Facts
- Picture Crossword
- Take a Ride!
- Calling Dr. Ride
- Space Legacy
- Her Name is Sally
- Truth or Lie?
- Men and Women in Space
- Space Facts
- First American Woman in Space
- Astronaut Selection Program
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Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.