Sally Ride was born in Los Angeles. Her father was a college teacher and her mother a volunteer counsellor in a women’s prison. Sally excelled at tennis, but decided she was not good enough to play professionally. She went on to Stanford University where she achieved degrees in physics and English before researching astrophysics and laser physics for a Master of Science and PhD. She applied to NASA after seeing an advertisement in the Stanford student newspaper and in 1978 was selected from 8000 applicants, along with five other women and 29 men.
During her 5-year training she was a communications officer for two Space Shuttle Columbia flights and helped to develop the Shuttle’s robot arm. She was one of the five crew members for the seventh Shuttle mission, the first on the Space Shuttle Challenger. When it launched in 1983, Sally Ride, aged 32, became the first American women, and the youngest American, in space —a record that still stands. In her own words:
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