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Remembering and Honoring Sally Ride: An American Hero

Updated on March 12, 2017

Sally Ride, she may not be a household name, but she certainly should be. She was a Stanford graduate with a PhD in physics, a member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, a member of the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and a former NASA Astronaut. She was a pioneer and a true American Hero.

Sally Ride
Sally Ride | Source

In the late 1970s, Sally Ride, along with 8,000 other hopeful applicants responded to a newspaper ad seeking applicants for NASA's space program. Shortly after being selected, in early 1978, she joined NASA's astronaut training program. This was the dawn of the Space Shuttle era and by the early 1980s, Sally Ride was well on her way to finding a seat on a Space Shuttle Flight. On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became not only the first American woman to enter space; she also became the youngest American ever, at age 32, to enter space. She had broken the barrier of this once exclusive all male club, she was a pioneer, a young female Astronaut with all the right stuff.

Sally Ride aboard Challenger, 1983.
Sally Ride aboard Challenger, 1983. | Source
The crew of STS-7, 1983
The crew of STS-7, 1983 | Source

In the 1960s and early 1970s NASA had always been a “boys club”. For a woman to have broken this barrier was a big deal. Sally Ride not only had to prove herself capable, she had to prove that she could compete with and hold her own in a career field that had preconceived notions and had always been dominated by men.

When she lifted off aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in June of 1983, on STS-7, she not only broke the sound barrier on her way into space, she broke the glass ceiling for a generation of women trying to prove that they could excel in the field of science, and she paved the way for other women in NASA’s Astronaut corps.

Sally Ride would go on to fly two Space Shuttle missions and would spend a total 343 hours in space. She was so well respected within the NASA community that in 1986 she was appointed to the presidential commission investigating the Space Shuttle Challenger accident.

In August of 1987, Sally Ride retired from NASA to pursue a career in academia. In 2003, following the Space Shuttle Columbia accident she was once again sort out and asked to join the board investigating the accident. Sally was the only person to have served on both Space Shuttle accident investigation committee's.

Shuttle liftoff
Shuttle liftoff | Source

Despite her rise to fame in NASA and academia, Sally Ride continued to focus her energy and efforts on encouraging children, particularly young girls, to enter the field of math and science. In 2001, she founded Sally Ride Science, a company committed to creating science programs and publications aimed at young students. Ride also authored and co-authored five books on space, all aimed at drawing children into the study of science.

NASA's First Class of Female Astronauts including Sally Ride (far right)
NASA's First Class of Female Astronauts including Sally Ride (far right) | Source

Today, it is not uncommon to find brilliant women in all fields of science. It wasn’t always this way. For those of us who grew up during the Apollo era of the late 1960s and early 1970s, you would be hard pressed to have found a woman in the control room at NASA, let alone sitting atop a Saturn Five Rocket on the launch pad. Space was a man’s world back then. Today, thanks to pioneer’s like Sally Ride, it’s a much different world.

Sally Ride passed away on July 23, 2012 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Much too soon for this brilliant groundbreaking pioneer who forever changed the face of NASA. Thank you Sally for the great “Ride” and for blazing new frontiers and breaking barriers. You are a true American hero.

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

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      D-Man 4 years ago

      Impressive accomplishments, but I think the word "hero" gets tossed around a bit too much nowadays.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi aa lite. Yeah, it's kind of a sad commentary that just thirty years ago there were still career's that were considered "men's club's". But, thanks to women like Sally Ride things have changed. Very sad that she died so young.

      Thanks for reading and have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank You HouseBuyersUS. Glad you enjoyed it. Have a great day.

    • aa lite profile image

      aa lite 5 years ago from London

      I did not realise that Sally Ride died until reading this hub. It is strange to think of a time, not that long ago, when a woman going to space was considered so remarkable! Great hub to commemorate her achievements.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mary. She was so much more than just an astronaut. Really committed herself to spreading the message that young girls could excel in science and math. Her company, Sally Ride Science, will continue to spread her message. Thanks for reading and sharing. Have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Angela. Her legacy is all those young girls that will someday enter the field of science and technology. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Have a great day.

    • MazioCreate profile image

      MazioCreate 5 years ago from Brisbane Queensland Australia

      Wonderful hub that shows a woman who cared about and excelled in her field of study. Coming from Australia I had no idea she had written books and developed the Sally Ride Science company to encourage young people to pursue science and maths. Thanks for filling in the gaps for me and I hope those that follow me. Shared!

    • Angela Kane profile image

      Angela Kane 5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      I voted this beautiful. To be the first to do something and make an impression on all those that go after you is a very powerful thing. Gone too soon, she will be missed, but never forgotten. May she rest in heaven.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Laura. I've always had an interest in the space program so I was saddened to learn that Sally had passed away. Hopefully her legacy is to inspire more young girls to find an interest in science and technology.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. Have a great day

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Thanks for writing about Sally. She is in a children's book I just read to my daughter that features American women girls can look up to. Interesting to learn more.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Christy. She was a groundbreaking pioneer. I remember well when she became the first american woman to go into space. Seems like yesterday but alas, it was almost 30 years ago. Thank yo for reading, commenting, the vote and share. Have a great day.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What an excellent tribute to this remarkable woman. I sadly only heard her name after I heard of her passing. How nice of you to pay tribute to her. I vote up and will share too.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Alun, It's been in the news here for the last couple of days. Probably more so than over there. I've been a big fan of the space program since I was a kid so this struck a chord with me. She was a groundbreaking pioneer for sure. Thanks and have a great day.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK

      I am familiar with Sally Ride from her days in space, but I was not aware she had died. Not sure how prominently the news has been covered in the UK, as I haven't seen or heard much news in the past couple of days, but the first I heard was in this fitting tribute. Thank you. Alun.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Jil. Glad you enjoyed the Hub. Sally Ride was an amazing woman and contributed much to NASA and the US Space Program. She broke that glass ceiling at NASA which had always been a "good ole boys club". Generations of women will benefit from her efforts.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi pramodgokhale. Thank you for your comments. She certainly was a pioneer and opened the door for women to NASA. Have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi janddplus4. Actually she was selected along with 5 other women for the first female class to enter the astronaut program. The ad that she responded to was placed in the Stanford College paper so they were obviously looking for very bright individuals. She definitely was not selected as the "token female". She was very, very smart, had a degree in Physics, and was extremely athletic and apparently met all of NASA's requirements to be selected. I actually recall seeing ads in the newspaper for NASA back in the 70's so I can vouch for their method's back then.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Have a great day.

    • Mrs Jil Manning profile image

      Mrs Jil Manning 5 years ago from Sussex, England

      Great hub, and a wonderful tribute to a real inspiration. RIP Sally Ride

    • pramodgokhale profile image

      pramodgokhale 5 years ago from Pune( India)

      Yes she was great astronaut and first female to enter space , I think i was in Arabian Gulf and heard news of accident.

      in future more female astronaut would do great job in space.

    • janddplus4 profile image

      janddplus4 5 years ago

      It would be interesting to know the qualifications that made her stand out in the group of 8,000 applicants. I am guessing that back then, she wouldn't have been chosen randomly as a "token minority." I never would have guessed NASA would post an ad in a newspaper like that!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      We certainly did.... Thank you.

    • KenWu profile image

      KenWu 5 years ago from Malaysia

      RIP, Sally Ride. The world just lost a great soul!

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