Happy Birthday, Sally Ride!

May 26, 2022

May 26th marks what would be Sally Ride’s 71st birthday. As the first American female and youngest American to fly amongst the stars, Ride was a true pioneer in space travel. In honor of this special day, Capitol Tech is taking an in-depth look at what Ride accomplished, and how her legacy still affects the world today. 

According to journalist Kim Ann Zimmerman of space.com, Ride was always an ambitious person, involved in sports, the arts, and of course, physics and math. “Sally Kristen Ride was the older of two daughters of Dale B. Ride and Carol Joyce (Anderson) Ride… While neither had a background in the physical sciences, she credited them with fostering her deep interest in science by encouraging her to explore.”

Ride pursued several degrees at Stanford, starting with two bachelor's degrees in physics and English in 1973 and ending with a doctorate in physics in 1978. Soon after, she began her aerospace journey with NASA, selected as one of six women to become the first female astronauts.

“Ride started her aeronautics career on the ground, serving as a capsule communicator (CAPCOM) as part of the ground-support crew for the second (November 1981) and third (March 1982) shuttle flights,” states Zimmerman.

Soon enough, Ride would be helping to command shuttles from beyond the atmosphere, taking flight for the first time aboard the Challenger.

Piloting the shuttle’s robotic arm, Ride set the stage for a new dawn of women in spaceflight, inspiring generations to come. Ride was later assigned on a similar mission on the Challenger, in which she maneuvered the arm to remove ice from the exterior of the shuttle and readjusted the radar antenna. She was meant to board a third Challenger mission, but the accident of 1986 prevented that flight.

“[S]he continued to influence the space program after her days of space travel were over. Ride served on the accident investigation boards set up in response to the two space shuttle tragedies — Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. In 2009, she participated in the Augustine committee that helped define NASA's spaceflight goals,” Zimmerman writes.

Through Ride’s work, leaps and bounds were made both in knowledge and in American spaceflight diversity, and her legacy did not pause after her career at NASA ended. She was a professor of physics at the University of California, wrote several space-themed children’s books, and continued to encourage young women to get involved with science-focused careers.

In 2001, with the help of her partner Tam O'Shaughnessy, Ride even co-founded 'Sally Ride Science,' a science outreach company. A notable effort of the company included adding the MoonKam experiment onto NASA's unmanned Grail moon gravity probes, allowing middle school students to take their own moon photos from lunar orbit.

A beacon of inspiration both before and after death, Sally Ride continues to be a role model for women involved in space travel and STEM. Take the time today to learn about all of Ride’s accomplishments and the impact she left on the world.

Capitol Tech offers many opportunities in aviation and astronautical sciences, where you can work towards lifelong careers among the stars, just like Sally Ride. If staying on the ground and observing is more your speed, Capitol has an excellent, state-of-the-art Space Flight Operations Center (SFOTC) where students can track and communicate with simulated satellites in space, just like real NASA professionals. Plus, very soon we'll be starting construction on our ALPHA Observatory project, where students will be able to study galaxies far, far away right from our Laurel campus. To learn more about these programs and projects, visit captechu.edu or contact admissions@captechu.edu.

Feature image credit to NASA