June 18, 1983: Sally Ride becomes first American woman in space
The early string of American astronauts had one thing in common: they were all men. NASA tried allowing women in this field, but they quickly changed their stance. Fortunately, they reversed that decision, and in 1983, the very first American lady was space bound.
Born to ride
With a last name like Ride, you’d expect that person to excel at operating vehicles. For Los Angeles native Sally Ride, being an astronaut wasn’t initially in their radar. “I didn’t really decide that I wanted to be an astronaut for sure until the end of college. But even in elementary school and junior high, I was very interested in space and in the space program,” Ride told Scholastic in 1998. During her time at Stanford University, Ride earned a Ph.D. in Physics. While on campus, Ride noticed an advertisement looking for potential astronauts. After applying, she found herself chosen in a group of 35 for training. “The moment I saw that ad I knew that that was what I really wanted to do given the opportunity. And somewhat unbelievably, NASA chose me and my life took quite a turn,” Ride told Harvard Business Review in 2012.
Part of the pack
After a year of training, Ride started working as a spacecraft communicator for a few flights. After some praise for her work, she was chosen as a crew member for NASA’s STS-7 mission. As expected, reporters threw some insane questions her way. One unnamed reporter had the gall to ask, “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?” Ride simply brushed off these intrusive questions and chose to focus on the job at hand. “It may be too bad that our society isn’t further along and that this is such a big deal,” she told People back in 1983.
An iconic mission
On June 18, 1983, Ride and Co. blasted off into space inside Challenger to deploy some satellites. Aside from the deployment, the crew handled experiments involving mysterious gases and metal alloys. On June 24, 1983, Challenger returned to Earth to several sighs of relief. For Ride, this journey etched her name in space history. More importantly, she inspired girls to follow their dreams of floating in space.