This Day in Science History 6/18/1983: The space shuttle Challenger is launched
This historic launch was almost exactly 20 years to the day after the first woman traveled to space. The first woman to travel to space, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina V. Tereshkova, launched on June 16, 1963. Ride became the third woman in space (with the second also being a Soviet cosmonaut), and the first American woman in space, and described the launch as “exhilarating, terrifying, and overwhelming all at the same time.”
Ride was born on May 26, 1951 in Los Angeles, California. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and her Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University. While in graduate school, Ride saw an article published in The Stanford Daily in January 1977 advertising that NASA was recruiting a new group of astronauts for the Space Shuttle program and they were including women, and she was inspired to apply. With the introduction of the space shuttle program, NASA expanded their astronaut candidate selection pool from only pilots to include scientists and engineers as well. In 1978, Ride and 5 other women were selected for NASA Astronaut Group 8, the first American selection class to include females.
Ride retired from NASA in 1987, becoming a professor at the University of California, San Diego. Throughout her career she wanted to encourage women and girls to study science and mathematics. Ride published many children’s books about space and came up with the idea for NASA’s EarthKAM project, which allows middle school students to take pictures of Earth using a camera on the International Space Station. In 2003, she was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame – honoring astronauts for their accomplishments in spaceflight. Sally Ride was a trailblazer and has inspired many women to follow their dreams and reach for the stars!