Science and Exploration

Educator and Former Astronaut Sally Ride Has Died (Updated)

By Marc Boucher
July 23, 2012
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Educator and Former Astronaut Sally Ride Has Died (Updated)
Sally Ride

Sally Ride died peacefully today surrounded by family at the age of 61 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space on June 18, 1983 as part of the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger. She flew twice in space before leaving NASA and pursuing a career as an educator.
President Obama issued this statement on hearing the news:

“Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Sally Ride. As the first American woman to travel into space, Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model.

She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools.

Sally’s life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sally’s family and friends.”

NASA issued a statement of condolences and administrator Charles Bolden said; “Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism — and literally changed the face of America’s space program. The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sally’s family and the many she inspired. She will be missed, but her star will always shine brightly.

Lon Rains, Chairman of the Coalition for Space Exploration said in statement; “Today, the Coalition for Space Exploration is saddened to say goodbye to our dear friend and colleague Sally Ride – physicist, astronaut, educator and American hero. After her trailblazing career in space, Sally dedicated her life to the mission of opening the world of science to girls, with the Sally Ride Science Academy and Camps.

She was a role model, a mentor and one of our most effective champions for STEM education.Our sorrow in her passing is only exceeded by our deep respect and gratitude for her contributions to our nation and our future.

UPDATED with more statements:

NSBRI mourns the loss of Sally Ride – America’s first woman in space

Challenger Center for Space Science Education Statement on the Passing of Sally Ride

Statement from Nancy Conrad regarding the passing of Sally Ride

Chairman Hall Statement on Passing of Sally Ride, First U.S. Woman to Fly in Space

Astronaut Sally Ride Dies – Was a Special Inspiration to Girls and Young Women

Ranking Member Johnson Issues Statement on the Passing of Dr. Sally Ride

Statement from Eileen Collins on the Passing of Sally Ride

Former NASA Astronaut Steve Hawley Remembers Sally Ride’s Dedication to Students

NASA Biography

Dr. Ride was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in January 1978. In August 1979, she completed a 1-year training and evaluation period, making her eligible for assignment as a mission specialist on future Space Shuttle flight crews. She subsequently performed as an on-orbit capsule communicator (CAPCOM) on the STS-2 and STS-3 missions.

Dr. Ride was a mission specialist on STS-7, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on June 18, 1983. She was accompanied by Captain Robert L. Crippen (spacecraft commander), Captain Frederick H. Hauck (pilot), and fellow mission specialists Colonel John M. Fabian and Dr. Norman E. Thagard. This was the second flight for the Orbiter Challenger and the first mission with a 5-person crew. During the mission, the STS-7 crew deployed satellites for Canada (ANIK C-2) and Indonesia (PALAPA B-1); operated the Canadian-built Remote Manipulator System (RMS) to perform the first deployment and retrieval exercise with the Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS-01); conducted the first formation flying of the orbiter with a free-flying satellite (SPAS-01); carried and operated the first U.S./German cooperative materials science payload (OSTA-2); and operated the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES) and the Monodisperse Latex Reactor (MLR) experiments, in addition to activating seven Getaway Specials. Mission duration was 147 hours before landing on a lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on June 24, 1983.

Dr. Ride served as a mission specialist on STS 41-G, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on October 5, 1984. This was the largest crew to fly to date and included Captain Robert L. Crippen (spacecraft commander), Captain Jon A. McBride (pilot), fellow mission specialists, Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan and Commander David C. Leestma, as well as two payloads specialists, Commander Marc Garneau and Mr. Paul Scully-Power. Their 8-day mission deployed the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite, conducted scientific observations of the earth with the OSTS-3 pallet and Large Format Camera, as well as demonstrating potential satellite refueling with an EVA and associated hydrazine transfer. Mission duration was 197 hours and concluded with a landing at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on October 13, 1984.

In June 1985 Dr. Ride was assigned to the crew of STS 61-M. Mission training was terminated in January 1986 following the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. Dr. Ride served as a member of the Presidential Commission investigating the accident. Upon completion of the investigation she was assigned to NASA Headquarters as Special Assistant to the Administrator for long range and strategic planning.

In 1989, Dr. Ride joined the faculty at UCSD as a Professor of Physics and Director of the University of California’s California Space Institute. In 2001 she founded her own company, Sally Ride Science to pursue her long-time passion of motivating girls and young women to pursue careers in science, math and technology. The company creates entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students and their parents and teachers.

Long an advocate for improved science education, Dr. Ride has written five science books for children: To Space and Back; Voyager; The Third Planet; The Mystery of Mars; and Exploring Our Solar System. She has also initiated and directed education projects designed to fuel middle school students’ fascination with science.

Dr. Ride has been a member of the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology and the National Research Council’s Space Studies Board, and has served on the Boards of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and the NCAA Foundation. Dr. Ride was a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, and served on the Boards of the Aerospace Corporation and the California Institute of Technology. She is the only person to have served on the Commissions investigating both the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia accidents.

Dr. Ride has received numerous honors and awards. She has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and has received the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the von Braun Award, the Lindbergh Eagle, and the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award. She has also twice been awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal.

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