Dr. Sally Ride - Diversity Spotlight - Carlson Caspers

Physicist, Dr. Sally Ride, was the first American woman and acknowledged LGBT astronaut to enter space. She joined NASA in 1978. She served as the first female ground-based capsule communicator for NASA, and guided astronauts on two missions. She helped develop the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (RMS or robot arm). In June 1983, she entered space as NASA’s flight engineer for the expedition, operated the shuttle’s robotic arm, and conducted experiments. She spent more than 343 hours in space before leaving NASA in 1987. Before her first trip to space, she fielded questions such as: Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?

Before NASA, she earned her bachelor’s degree in physics and english, followed by her master’s and Ph.D. in physics.  After NASA, Dr. Ride became the director of the California Space Institute at the University of California, and a professor of physics. Her research primarily involved the study of nonlinear optics and Thomson scattering. She was also a member of the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology and served on the Advisory Board of the National Women’s History Museum.

In 2001, she started Sally Ride Science with her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy and two other women, to create educational programs to help inspire girls and young women to pursue their interests in STEM.  She co-wrote several children’s books on space with the goal of encouraging children to study science. Dr. Ride was the only person to serve on both the committee that investigated the loss of the Challenger and that of Columbia.

For her contributions to the field of science and space exploration, Dr. Ride received many honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Samuel S. Beard Award for Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Under, General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award, the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award, and the NASA Space Flight Medal (twice). She is an inductee of the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Author: Jennell C. Bilek