Prof. Dr. Sally Kirsten Ride in communication with Ground Control and President Reagan on STS-7 Challenger flight in 1983. Both of Dr. Ride’s flights into space were aboard the Challenger.
Born in Los Angeles, CA USA on 26MAY51, she joined NASA in 1978 and became the first American woman in space in 1983. Ride flew into space, after Soviet cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova, and Svetlana Savitskaya (1982). Ride remains the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space, having done so at the age of 32. After flying twice on the Challenger, she left NASA in 1987. She worked for two years at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Arms Control, earning her doctorate in Physics, then at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) as a Professor of Physics, primarily researching non-linear optics and Thomson scattering. At the time, UCSD was the center of non-linear optics and femtosecond laser studies.* She served on the committees that investigated the Challenger (with Prof. Dr. Feynman) and Columbia space shuttle disasters, the only person to participate in both.
“Leadership and America’s Future in Space: A Report to the Administrator”
(informally, ‘The Ride Report’) was her greatest and most important public work. In this report, she outlined the necessary change in direction and strategy necessary to insure the advances of the The Apollo Missions and the Space Shuttle were not lost to incompetent management and poor science. She sided with Prof. Dr. Richard Feynman on many occasions during the Challenger investigations, and afterwards.
The Ride Report proposed four main initiatives for study and evaluation. These were:
- Mission to ‘Planet Earth’ – A Space Station under the leadership of the USA in orbit to balance the Soviet Space Station presence. This Space Station around Earth would study Our Home Planet and to initiate its own programs of exploration. The I.S.S. is a mere, thin shadow of her proposal.
- Exploration of the Solar System – This included manned and unmanned missions.
- Outpost on the Moon – establish an human base with USA leadership on the Moon as our first permanent interplanetary outpost from which other missions could launch.
- Humans to Mars – Dr. Ride rekindles the original goal of NASA had always been to establish permanently occupied bases with USA leadership on Mars.
Later, Prof. Dr. Ride was very active in the political life of the nation. She supported the election and re-election (until her death) of President Barack Obama. She joined the Democratic Party and actively aided fund-raisers. She was on-hand for the first Astronomy Night at The White House (2009) to answer questions. In 2012, she conducted her last public interview with Harvard Business Review (below)
President Obama looking through an 8″ Celestron telescope set-up just outside the portico for Astronomy Night at The White House.