In Memoriam: Sally Kristen Ride, 1951-2012

Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, university professor, and a strong advocate for supporting women’s education in STEM disciplines, has died at her home in La Jolla, California, at the age of 61. She suffered from pancreatic cancer.

When Ride was launched on the space shuttle Challenger in June 1983, she was the youngest American to have flown in space. Ride became a household name and she was a role model for millions of young American girls and women. After leaving the space program, she used her notoriety to become an advocate for increasing the number of women in scientific fields.

Sally Ride was born in Encino, California. She graduated from what is now the prestigious Harvard-Westlake School. As a teenager, she was ranked 18th nationally in junior women’s tennis. She enrolled at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania as a member of the tennis team but later transferred to Stanford University to concentrate on academics. She earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in astrophysics at Stanford. She became an astronaut after answering a want-ad in the student newspaper.

In 1989, Ride was appointed professor of physics at the University of California at San Diego. She was also director of the California Space Institute at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

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