On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first woman astronaut to launch in space. NASA marks Monday, June 18, 2012 as her 29th Anniversary as she was one of the three astronauts to launch their rocket to the stars – this act of Ride showed that women can do a lot of things that even the sky wasn’t the limit.
A Los Angeles native, Ride was a nationally ranked tennis player and became a professional right after her college years. At 31, Ride was also the youngest American to go in space. Ride said she was back in school, earning a Ph.D. in Physics at Standford University in 1977 when she spotted a “Help: Wanted” Ad in a college newspaper. It said that NASA was looking for scientists to work on a new project: a reusable spacecraft to be called the Space Shuttle. It was the year NASA finally started accepting women in the astronaut training corps.
Of the 8,000 applicants, only 35 were chosen and just six were women. “Out of roughly 4,000 technical employees at the Johnson Space Center, I think there were only four women, so that gives you a sense of how male the culture was,” Ride later said in an interview for the Academy of Achievement. Ride was also still a newlywed when she went to space: she had married fellow astronaut Steve Hawley a year earlier.
In 1983, after working on two previous missions, she became the first American woman tapped to go to space, part of the crew of five assigned to the Space Shuttle Challenger. Her flight was the seventh shuttle mission and Challenger’s second trip into space.
“I don’t think I appreciated how much of a trailblazer I was for women and how much women would look up to me as a role model and the things that I had done until after my first flight, after I landed,” she said. “I wasn’t face to face with women until I came back from my flight, and then it hit home pretty hard how important it was to an awful lot of women in the country.”
One male reporter asked her, “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?” Others wanted to know if she’d wear a bra or makeup in space. Johnny Carson joked that the flight was delayed so Ride could find a purse to match her shoes. The one person who wasn’t really impressed with all the Sally Ride phenomena was Sally Ride, who was so busy training she didn’t pay attention.
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