May 26, 2011 - Happy Birthday, Sally Ride

Yeah! The first American woman in space and the youngest American ever sent into orbit—and she has a cool name like “Sally Ride.” NASA couldn't have planned it better!

Born on this day in 1951 in Los Angeles, California, Ride became a nationally ranked tennis player in high school, earned double Bachelor's degrees from Stanford in physics and English, and went on to earn her Master's and PhD from the same prestigious university. Her research was in astrophysics and free electron laser physics.

A bit of an over-achiever, I think!

NASA was looking for more astronaut trainees, and Ride was one of around 8,000 people to answer a newspaper ad for the position. (A newspaper ad? Really?) Of course, NASA snatched her up. Her first Space Shuttle flight was in 1984, and both flights that she participated on were on the Space Shuttle Challenger. Ride was training for her third mission in space in 1986, when the Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing its seven crew members. (Remember, two of the crew members were women, and one of them, Christa McAuliffe, was the first member of the Teacher in Space Project.) Sally Ride participated in the commission that investigated the Challenger disaster.

After her time with NASA, Ride became a physics professor, served on a variety of commissions and boards, and began her own company to promote science to kids, especially girls.  One thing the company does is to put on festivals for girls from fifth to eighth grades—festivals with booths, activities, food, and music. The next two festivals will be held in September, in Louisiana and Virginia.

Watch this short video about Sally Ride.  (Note that there are two segments about Ride, in which she talks about how she ended up choosing science over tennis, and much more, including some shots of her in space. Then the YouTube video goes into two guys talking about investments and shareholders. I turned the video off at that point...)

Want more? Here is a short bio. 

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