On this day in 1983: NASA astronaut Sally Ride becomes first American woman in space after Florida launch


Astronaut Sally Ride is shown at work aboard the space shuttle Challenger, June 18, 1983, as the crew prepared to deploy the ANIK satellite. Ride is the first woman to go into space. (AP Photo/NASA-TV)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Friday marks 38 years since a major milestone for Americans in space.

NASA Astronaut Sally Ride, Ph.D., became the first woman from the United States in space on June 18, 1983. Dr. Ride was the third woman in space overall, after Valentina Tereshkova and Svetlana Savitskaya of Soviet/Russia, but was the first American woman to make it into orbit.

Ride became an astronaut in the late 70s. She was a mission specialist on STS-7, and launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 18, 1983 on board the Space Shuttle Challenger. It was just the second flight for Challenger and was the first mission with a five-person crew.

The crew, made up of Ride and four other astronauts, spent 147 hours in orbit before landing back on Earth on June 24, 1983.

After the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy in 1986, Ride served on the president commission that investigated what happened. Once the investigation was complete, Ride became special assistant to the NASA administrator for long-range and strategic planning.

The late Dr. Ride went on to become a professor of physics and the director of the University of California’s Space Institute in 1989. Years later, she founded Sally Ride Science with her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy to “narrow the gender gap in science and engineering.”

“Their goal was to promote equity and inclusion for all students, especially girls, in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies and careers,” the company’s website describes. “Over the years, Sally Ride Science created acclaimed STEM programs for girls and boys of all backgrounds across the country.”

Ride died in July 2012 of pancreatic cancer.

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