JUN 18, 2022 6:00 AM PDT

This Day in Science History 6/18/1983: The space shuttle Challenger is launched carrying Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.

On this day in history 39 years ago NASA Astronaut Sally Kristen Ride became the first American woman in space, the first known member of the LGBT+ community in space, and the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space (she was 32). On June 18, 1983, Space Shuttle Challenger launched Ride and her four crewmates into space from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on mission STS-7. This was the seventh space shuttle flight and Challenger’s second; her inaugural flight was on April 4th of the same year. This mission was the most complex mission in the shuttle program to date: it lasted 6 days and the astronauts were tasked with deploying and retrieving satellites. Ride was instrumental in this mission, being the Mission Specialist and trained on the shuttle’s robotic arm for the satellite retrieval and deployment.

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.”

Sally Ride, first American woman in space, floats in the flight deck of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Credit: NASA

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!

Sources: nasa.gov, nasa.gov, nasaspaceflight.com, nasa.gov, nasa.gov

About the Author
PhD in Astrophysics
I'm a stellar astrophysicist by training with a passion for formal and informal education and diversity and inclusion in STEM. I love to take a humanistic approach to my work and firmly believe that all of humanity is united under one sky.
You May Also Like
JUN 22, 2022
Space & Astronomy
A 'dark' free-floating black hole might have been detected
JUN 22, 2022
A 'dark' free-floating black hole might have been detected
Who doesn’t love black holes? From time immemorial, everyone has wanted to know what happens if you fall into a bl ...
JUN 24, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Dying Stars Could Enrich the Interstellar Medium with Carbon Nanotubes
JUN 24, 2022
Dying Stars Could Enrich the Interstellar Medium with Carbon Nanotubes
In a paper recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Physical Chemistry A, researchers at the University of Ar ...
JUN 25, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Dead Star's Cannibalism Points to Future of Our Solar System
JUN 25, 2022
Dead Star's Cannibalism Points to Future of Our Solar System
During a press conference at this summer’s American Astronomical Society meeting, a team of researchers presented ...
JUL 29, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Black Hole Found Lurking Outside Our Galaxy
JUL 29, 2022
Black Hole Found Lurking Outside Our Galaxy
A recent study conducted by an international collaboration of experts and published in Nature Astronomy have discovered ...
AUG 16, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Lunar IceCube Will Hitch a Ride on Artemis 1
AUG 16, 2022
Lunar IceCube Will Hitch a Ride on Artemis 1
NASA’s Lunar IceCube is one of several CubeSats hitching a ride to the Moon on Artemis 1. CubeSats are efficient a ...
AUG 19, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
Ever Wondered What Our Universe Sounds Like?
AUG 19, 2022
Ever Wondered What Our Universe Sounds Like?
Our Universe is quite a dynamic environment with stars exploding to their deaths, black holes merging, stars being torn ...
Loading Comments...