Dr. Sally Ride turns 60 today, and you have to love this amazing photo of her on the flight deck of the space shuttle Challenger 28 years ago. The year is 1983, and she has just become the first American woman in space.
Here’s a Sally Ride space biography in photos.
Sally Ride with other female astronaut candidates, taking a break from training in Florida in 1978. That was the first year that NASA accepted female candidates. Ride applied after reading about it in her school newspaper; she earned her PhD in Physics from Stanford the same year. From left: Sally Ride, Judith Resnick, Anna Fisher, Kathryn Sullivan, and Rhea Seddon.
Judith Resnick, alas, was killed in the explosion of the shuttle Challenger in 1986.
Sally Ride in the trenches at Mission Control. (Diet Pepsi all around!) She served as communications officer — “CAPCOM,” in NASA lingo — for the second and third shuttle flights, in 1981 and 1982. Her flight in 1983 was the seventh overall.
Sally Ride and Anna Fisher take part in a mission sequence test at Kennedy Space Center. Dig the space scrubs.
Sally Ride with the crew of STS-7 in 1983. It was the first shuttle mission with a five-person crew, as well as the first U.S. space mission with a female astronaut. (The Americans were a wee bit behind the Russians there: Valentina Tereshkova spent three days in space in 1963.)
From left to right: Sally Ride, John Fabian, Commander Bob Crippen, Norm Thagard, and pilot Frederick Hauck.
Three days before blastoff: Sally Ride looks down from the cockpit of a T-38 jet before flying from Houston to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. She launched into space on June 18th, 1983.
So much for the glamour of space travel. Sally Ride uses a screwdriver to clear an air filter aboard the Challenger during the flight of STS-7. According to NASA, “Her shirt features a cartoon of 35 busy astronauts around a shuttle with the acronym TFNG, which stands for ‘thirty five new guys,’ a nickname for the 1978 astronaut class.”
Another shot from that first trip aboard the Challenger. They landed safely on June 24th, 1983, after a six-day mission.
Sally Ride flew again in 1984 and was scheduled to go up again in 1986. The Challenger explosion changed all that. She served (along with Neil Armstrong) on the Presidential commission that looked into the accident, and retired from NASA in 1987 after a whirlwind decade.
Today she’s the founder and CEO of Sally Ride Science, which creates school programs and teacher trainings in science, math and technology. Their website says they support “girls’ and boys’ interests in science” — but if she takes just a little more interest in the girls, who could blame her? Happy 60th birthday, Dr. Ride.
See our biography of Sally Ride »