1951 - 2012

“When I was a girl, I had a teacher who encouraged my interest in science. She challenged me to be curious, to ask questions, and to think about things for myself.”

- Sally Ride

Sally Ride was born on May 26, 1951, in Los Angeles, CA. She grew up playing sports and competing in national junior tennis tournaments. But it was her fascination with science that led her to become a physicist, a science writer, and an inspirational advocate for science literacy. In 1977, while finishing her Ph.D. in physics at Stanford University, she saw an ad in the student newspaper that NASA was looking for astronauts and, for the first time, was allowing women to apply. She was one of only 35 people – including six women – chosen to join the astronaut corps from among 8,000 applicants. When Challenger mission STS-7 blasted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride soared into history as the first American woman in space. Her second flight, STS-41G, also aboard Challenger, launched on October 5, 1984. Ride was the only person to serve on the presidential commissions investigating both the Challenger explosion in 1986 and the Columbia disaster in 2003. She retired from NASA in 1987 and became a science fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford. In 1989 she joined the faculty at the University of California, San Diego as a professor of physics and as director of the California Space Institute. In 2001 Ride founded her own company – Sally Ride Science – to pursue her longtime passion for motivating girls and boys to study science and explore careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Sally Ride died on July 23, 2012, after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She is survived by Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, her life partner of 27 years; her mother, Joyce; sister, Bear, and Bear’s spouse, Susan; niece, Caitlin, and nephew, Whitney. In 2013 she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama – a fitting tribute to a remarkable life that became a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers.


Plaque Sponsor

WGN Meteorologist Tom Skilling

Lesson Plan


Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Lesbian

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch Cold War (1945-1991) Information Age (1970-present)

Field(s) of Contribution





Social Sciences

STEM & Medicine

US History

Commemorations & Honors

NASA Space Flight Medal (1983)

NASA Space Flight Medal (1984)

National Women's Hall of Fame Inductee (1988)

U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Inductee (2003)

California Hall of Fame Inductee (2006)

National Aviation Hall of Fame Inductee (2007)

Posthumous General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award by the Space Foundation (2013)

Posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom Award For Space Exploration (2013)

Google Doodle Commemorating Ride's 64th Birthday (2015)

San Francisco Rainbow Honor Walk Honoree (2018)

U.S. Postal Service Commemorative Stamp (2018)

U.S. Mint Commemorative Quarter (2022)


Related Videos

ABC News Report Astronaut Sally Ride's Secret Journey

Dr. Tam O'Shaughnessy Talking About and Accepting Dr. Sally Ride's Posthumous P…

NOVA PBS Interview with Dr. Sally Ride in 1984

ABC News Report on Dr. Sally Ride's First Space Launch

Biography Channel's Sally Ride The First American Woman In Space

Obama White House Open for Questions with Astronaut Sally Ride

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Channel Sally Ride: Breaking the High…

ABC News Report on the Death of Dr. Sally Ride

Sally Ride: An Inspiration for a Generation Narrated by Tam O'Saughnessy

Astronaut Sally Ride Discusses her Experience in Space on CNN

Tam O'Shaughnessy Accepting Sally Ride’s Medal of Freedom from President Obama

ABC News Report on Sally Ride's Return From Space in 1983

Sesame Street - Sally Ride Talks About Being an Astronaut


Original Biography Author
Carrie Maxwell
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Biography Vetted, Edited, and Certified By
Dr. Tam O'Shaughnessy
Sally Ride Science
Image Rights Usage Granted By
Courtesy of NASA and Dr. Tam O'Shaughnessy
Image Source for Bronze Casting
Courtesy of NASA and Dr. Tam O'Shaughnessy
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell